Building Resilience in Children

Resilience. It’s a word we’ve been hearing a lot during COVID-19.

 (photo credit: OHEL)
(photo credit: OHEL)
How can we build resilience during this crisis? There are no easy answers for how to cope, what to do, and how to keep it together when all you really want to do is fall apart.  Yet there are definitely things we can do to deliberately cultivate our personal resilience.  First, let us understand a few things about resilience in order to help ourselves and our children. 
  • Resilience isn’t an all or nothing proposition, where people are resilient all the time.
  • People often mistake resilience for positivity or optimism. Resilience doesn’t mean we don’t struggle and doubt, or feel sadness and pain. 
  • Resilience is not a predetermined entity.  We are not born with a set amount of resilience.  Resilience is a muscle that we can exercise and build. 
  • Resilience helps us regulate the emotions that accompany adversity so we are not overwhelmed by them.
  • Resilience helps us transform our challenges into opportunities for growth.
At Ohel, our school-based services team actively focuses on building resilience in the students we work with.  We believe in “universal intervention”, the idea that schools provide all children - not only those who seem to be having a hard time - with resilience building interventions.   With this approach, it’s not just the stereotyped “problem child” who gets support. All children receive some level of social-emotional skill building that helps them prepare for life.  A school that cultivates a resilience-based environment will prioritize resilience, along with math, history, and science.
With this in mind, Ohel & Metiv have developed My COVID-19 Resilience Workbook, to provide children, ages 5-10, a foundation for resilience.
My COVID-19 Resilience Workbook incorporates the following resilience building tenets:
Identifying and Normalizing Emotions
Viktor Frankl famously said, “An abnormal response to an abnormal situation is normal”.  Feeling sad, anxious, angry, or worried doesn’t make you weak.  These emotions are normal and understandable, and should not be pathologized.  My COVID-19 Resilience Workbook teaches children to recognize, accept, and manage the myriad of emotions produced by the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. 
Self-Regulation
Children are taught that feelings don’t just happen to them. There are things they can do to regulate these feelings.  They are taught to identify: What does this emotion feel like inside my body? Am I feeling a little or a lot of this emotion?  What can I do to feel better? 
photo credit: OHELphoto credit: OHEL
Supportive Relationships
From young children to older adults, connection is key to coping with adversity.  Through the pages of the workbook, children are taught this critical ingredient of resilience at an early age.  Who are the people that I feel safe with?  Who can I call when I need help?  How can I reach out and connect to others?
Service to Others 
Helping others allows us to take action and feel a sense of control, even when we may be feeling helpless.  Children are taught to identify ways they can help others.  By helping others, they increase their own sense of purpose and meaning, which has a significant impact on their own well-being.
photo credit: OHELphoto credit: OHEL
Gratitude
Identifying the things we are thankful for makes us feel better and literally boosts our immune systems.  Children are prompted to recognize their blessings, creating a positive regard for their capacity to live well and count on friends and family.  With this perspective, challenges and hardships appear less daunting. 
Hope For The Future
Hopeful children are more likely to be future oriented. They are more likely to set goals for the future and believe that these goals can be reached.  The workbook’s final activity helps install hope for the future by reflecting on wishes for a post- COVID world.
The goal of My COVID-19 Resilience Workbook isn’t just to help children survive the current COVID-19 crisis. It to provide them with tools for life –  to survive and even thrive – today and through all the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow.
To download Ohel Family’s My COVID-19 Resilience Workbook click here.