TEACHING RESILIENCY AT HOME – 6 STRATEGIES
Resiliency is the protective cling film that helps us withstand life’s challenges and tribulations. It’s our lifeboat when the ship is sinking, giving us that extra time while we repair what’s gone wrong. Resilience is formed through a combination of genetics, temperament, and environmental forces.
Dr Loretta Giorcelli recently shared the six domains of resilience at a talk in Hong Kong, which including the following:
Below we look at each of those domains within the context of gifted children.
The positive-oriented parent(s), extended family, caregivers, friends and physical surroundings all factor in to creating a secure environment. These individuals must be competent, present and available to the child in order to create that deep sense of emotional security. Limits and boundaries are also critical. However for those used to the intensity of Hong Kong, a healthy dose of independence is also needed, where the child feels that the caregiver is confident enough in the child to strike out on his/her own. Sheeber et al.(2007) noted, “The most widely reported finding with regard to family processes is that depression is inversely related to the level of support, attachment, and approval adolescents experience in the family environment.”
It is time to strengthen the bonds between parent(s)-student-school in order to create an environment where children can thrive. Gifted children often find school a place to endure rather than thrive, a place of boredom and a place where their thoughts, ideas and sense of place are actively squashed. This leads to depression, disillusionment and underachievement. Critical to a gifted child’s sense of success includes high self-esteem, a sense of optimism and ability to achieve self-mastery. Some studies have recognized that advanced problem solving ability and intellectual curiosity can also be a buffer of resilience in gifted individuals. Helping your child find that one teacher or coach that ‘mentors’ your child, even in a difficult school environment can give your child that extra dose of flexibility.
Studies show that when gifted children are put in a room, most often they will seek and find other gifted children as friends across multiple grade levels. A recent 2015 study debunked the myth that gifted children are socially less competent. The study indicates that gifted children were “highly popular with classmates” and actually “extended their own friendships throughout the intellectual range in their classroom.” The critical point for our gifted children is to help them facilitate finding at least one close friend. In Hong Kong, that also means helping our children build internal resiliency in case your family or that friend has to relocate.
TALENT AND INTERESTS
Consider professional athletes for a moment...immediately, one can deduce this is a segment of the population trained for resiliency. Studies indicate that professional athletes, and athletes at high levels in general are trained in a number of techniques such as "goal setting, imagery, relaxation, concentration, and self-talk". In the majority of cases, athletes and musicians also train in an area they like or love. They are the ones that take their interest and commit to it's development. No matter your child's pursuit, perhaps it is worth letting him/her explore these areas, even if they are unconventional. As another recent speaker mentioned, "Kids are now able to make careers out of things that never existed 20 years ago such as professional gaming, YouTube and more." If a child never has the opportunity to explore their talents and interests, they will never know how successful they could become.
Looking at the bright side of life not only can help you enjoy life more, but it also provides a buffer when the going gets tough. Parents that model progress in lieu of perfection, framing problems as opportunities for problem solving and teaching goal setting methods can help children learn to cope with everyday demands. Organizational skills can also help take the burden off of the multitude of stresses our children manage from elementary school to university. Using techniques such as bullet journaling and visual schedule organizers provide a backbone structure where mental energy can be devoted to other endeavours. In fact, the more we can help our children automate everyday processes, the more thinking power they can devote to learning. Whether your child’s temperament is glass half full or glass half empty, it’s critical as parents to listen and allow our children to express negative feelings and that seeking help is also a positive value.
Knowing where you are vulnerable in the six domains can help you assess those situations where resilience is lost. Elizabeth Meckstroth studied how gifted children adapt to the dominant social culture without losing their personal identity and values. She says in her paper, “Two of the more valued life goals of gifted children are self respect and happiness” (Parker & Colangelo, 1979). Although definitions of self respect and happiness vary with individuals, researchers, such as G. E. Vaillant, found that potentially highly successful people who were healthy experienced similar amounts and types of stresses but were able to develop strategies for coping with these challenges in their life” (Webb, Meckstroth & Tolan, 1982).