I was recently reminded of Kenneth Ginsburg’s book ‘Building Resilience in Children and Teens’. In it, he outlines the 7 C’s of resilience. To me, these are the building blocks that need to be in place before any pupil can start to engage meaningfully with learning, be that formal or informal.
At Bright Futures School, I have seen with my own eyes the difference these building blocks make – they are the difference between being able to engage in a learning environment and being consistently excluded from school. They are the difference between sliding into mental health problems and good emotional wellbeing.
Recently there have been a lot of changes at our school: new staff, new pupils, new timetable, reconfiguring of space. One of our pupils also had difficulty with another pupil, which we had to manage very carefully. As a result of this combination of factors, this pupil’s resilience and motivation to engage started to decrease.
I was reflecting earlier today that it looks like this pupil’s resilience is on the up again, but it wasn’t until I read again about the 7 C’s of resilience that I was able to pinpoint why.
The 7 C’s of Resilience
1) COMPETENCE: Young people need to be recognized when they’re doing something right and to be given opportunities to develop specific skills.
2) CONFIDENCE: Confidence comes from building real skills that parents and educators can teach and nurture. Confidence can be easily undermined, but also bolstered by tasks that push learners without making the goal feel unachievable.
3) CONNECTION: Being part of a community helps kids know they aren’t alone if they struggle and that they can develop creative solutions to problems.
4) CHARACTER. Kids need an understanding of right and what wrong and the capacity to follow a moral compass. That will allow them see that they cannot be put down.
5) CONTRIBUTION: The experience of offering their own service makes it easier for young people to ask for help when they need it. Once kids understand how good it can feel to give to others, it becomes easier to ask for that same support when it’s needed. And being willing to ask for help is a big part of being resilient.
6) COPING: Kids need to learn mechanisms to manage their stress by learning methods to both engage and disengage at times. Some strategies for doing this include breaking down seemingly insurmountable problems into smaller, achievable pieces, avoiding things that trigger extreme anxiety, and just letting some things go. After all, resilience is about conserving energy to fit the long game and kids need to know realistically what they can affect and what should be let go.
7) CONTROL: In order to truly be resilient a child need to believe that she has control over her world. Feeling secure helps engender control, which is why kids test limits.
What we had been able to do with our pupil was:
- Change his learning opportunities to include offsite activities in the community where he has a specific role that enables him to have experiences of competence. The specific role he has is one that is meaningful and authentic and clearly makes him feel useful, because he is helping others.
I reflected that with this, we are hitting the C’s of ‘competence’, ‘connection’ and ‘contribution’.
- Work with his parents to ensure that he has opportunities to participate in appropriate peer interactions. Parents have achieved this by carefully using his younger NT brother’s social network.
I reflected that with this, we are again hitting the C of ‘connection’.
- Revisit our strategies for helping this pupil to regulate his emotions.
This includes enabling him to take regulation breaks, validating his feelings when he is dysregulated and encouraging him to use 'stop and think'. I reflected that here, we are hitting the C of ‘coping’.
- Scale back the expectation of this pupil being able to engage in more traditional academic work of any kind, for the moment.
The activities that he is involved in are realistic and achievable with small challenges that can be easily scaffolded if he starts to encounter any difficulty.
I reflected that here, we are developing the C of ‘confidence’. I think confidence is always a by-product of competence and out of all the C’s, I would argue that competence is the cornerstone (which, spookily, begins with C)
It is reassuring to know that even though we weren’t following the strict framework of the 7 C’s, we were (due, I think to the influence of RDI on our curriculum and school culture) addressing most of these areas in an attempt to change things to support our pupil.
I wanted to share this in case it gives other parents and/or educators a framework for evaluating what might help their kids/pupils if they start to appear demotivated and/or disengaged.