Teaching Resilience in Early Childhood

Parenting Blog

January 26, 2012

I cleaned out my file cabinet this month, rediscovering articles once buried. One that I found interesting is "Resilience" written by Christof Wiechert and published in "Waldorf Today", an electronic newsletter. Since an increased number of veterans of the Iraq war (more than previous wars) have struggled to re-enter civilian life, researchers have been studying why some people recover from the truama and others don't.

The research is about resilience or the ability to bounce back and overcome the impact of traumatic experiences. Researchers found that resilience is not innate but it's learned in early childhood. To teach resilience, the following five conditions need to be present in early childhood.

1. The infant needs a reliable, stable relationship with one person. In time, a second, third or fourth person can be added but there must be one constant in the early days of a child's life.

2. The child needs authority. Having decisions about what is good, right and healthy made for them allows the child to gain trust that things will be taken care of for her. She grows secure in surroundings that can be relied on to keep her safe.

3. Children need to learn through example. Saying one thing and doing another does not work. Children imitate what they see so they need to be surrounded by people who live according to their moral standards, allowing children to learn habits in a totality, reinforced by what they see and hear. In this way, children do not need to discrimate to find the truth, it's apparent.

4. Children need a qualitative experience of time. They learn about time through experiencing the qualities of the time of day, the seasons of the year and the stages of life. They learn the "feel" of morning and evening, of summer and winter, of the order of things. Rituals that celebrate meals or bedtime and seasonal festivals help to teach the quality of time.

5. The last condition in developing resilience is a surplus of positive school experiences. In particular, children need to feel fully accepted by their teachers, to go to school in a warm, loving environment. Nonethless, children might experience emergencies in life (natural disasters, a loved one gets sick or a parent loses a job, etc.). Hence, schools need to provide opportunities for children to work through the traumas they might experience. Research has shown that creative free play and artistic activities can heal trauma. Hence, art needs to be a part of every educational curriculum.

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