Learning resilience at the start of the year

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Brendan Flanagan of St James’ School, Brighton27 January 2021

This week we are thrilled for the return of students and we’re looking forward to learning together’, said principal Brendan Flanagan of St James’ School, Brighton. ‘At the start of the year it’s important that families and children feel connected and safe, and that parents feel engaged in the school community. In the difficult times of late, the learning partnerships with children, families and teachers have been a strength for our community. One of the key messages we live by here at St James is that learning brings hope. We see it every day. When children are learning, they light up the room and their joy and hope lifts the whole community.’

These sentiments were echoed by Dr Lina Di Paolo, Team Leader, Student Wellbeing at Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools. ‘For children, adults and families alike, the start of a new school year brings a range of emotions. From the excitement and anticipation of starting afresh to the uncertainty and worry associated with forming friendships, and coping with new learning environments, subjects, teachers and academic expectations.’

Social and emotional learning

As the school year begins, Catholic schools will be fostering social and emotional learning.

‘Essentially, social and emotional learning focuses on nurturing resilience in learners so they are better able to navigate challenges and respond to adversity with a “growth mindset”’, said Dr Di Paolo. ‘Resilient students demonstrate an ability to adapt and “bounce back” from life’s inevitable ups and downs. They’re also able to regulate emotions, use creative problem-solving skills and draw on a range of coping strategies from their toolkit.’

Tips for promoting resilience

In the classroom and at home, teachers and parents can promote resilience by:

  • establishing connections with other children and supportive adults to help develop empathy and a broader support network
  • encouraging children to help others as this enables feelings of empowerment
  • teaching children how to set aside or ‘take a break’ from excessive worrying by modelling good self-care strategies including exercise, relaxation and fun
  • helping children identify reasonable goals and how to take steps towards them, one step at a time. This helps to focus on what has been accomplished rather than what has not
  • nurturing a positive self-view by reminding children of the ways they have handled difficulties and hardships in the past, and connecting their past successes with future potential
  • encouraging children to keep things in perspective rather than catastrophising – especially when they are stuck on something negative or challenging.

For additional guidance in supporting Preps, primary school children and teenagers with the beginning of school, refer to Beyond Blue’s Tackling back-to-school anxiety.