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By Erin Scott, an Enhancing Resilience in Children and Youth Learner

As I began the Enhancing Resilience in Children and Youth course, I was thinking of one of my Kindergarten students in particular, a child I will refer to as Emily.  Emily is a bright child with a twinkle in her eye who loves to learn. She also has difficulty with frustration and disappointment. At the beginning of the year, she would have big reactions to what seemed (to me) small bumps in her day – a child taking her seat, a drawing not coming out right, or even someone looking at her. Emily would scream and yell and then either crawl under a table or sit in a small corner of the room, refusing to talk, engage, or move. Thankfully, these reactions occurred less often as the year went on, however they still happened occasionally. At these times, everything in my teacher bag of tricks failed and I was frustrated. In my mind, she was stubborn and lacking resilience. 

In the resilience course, we were learning to ask “Why?” when looking at a child’s behavior. We were encouraged to look at what was causing the child stress and try to see how we could minimize this stress and be there as a support–a co-regulator–for the child. We were asked to reframe the behavior and to not just see it as a child misbehaving, but to look deeper. 

This was put to the test one week when Emily’s outbursts were happening every single day, sometimes multiple times per day. I was exhausted and feeling like a lousy teacher. One day, I could see Emily starting to melt down and she was walking towards me. I tensed up, ready for another battle and then this little girl put her head on my shoulder. I gave her a long hug and simply let her hold onto me for however long she wanted. When I felt her body begin to relax, I used a calm voice to talk to her about what was bothering her. She opened up to me and we were able to do some brainstorming and problem-solving together. 

In this moment, my calm helped Emily find her calm. Co-regulation at its finest! She was able to restore her internal balance and as a result,  had the resilience to move on with her day. When I had some time to think about the stressors she may have been facing, I realized that this particular week was an incredibly tough one for her. Her sister was ill with COVID and was isolated from the rest of the family. There was stress at home trying to keep everyone healthy. I had noticed Emily taking extra long naps at quiet time, she was exhausted and run down. No wonder she was having trouble handling everyday frustrations at school!

It is so easy as teachers to see everything as misbehavior, stubbornness or a lack of resilience. When you are the only teacher in the room, it is not always possible to stop in the moment and take the time to peel back the layers and ask why. However, when you can do this, it is an incredible gift to both the child and yourself. 

You may also be interested in Dr. Shanker’s Blog The Self-Reg View of Resilience, read it HERE. And our next cohort of Enhancing Resilience in Children and Youth is starting soon, don’t miss out!

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