Building a foundation for resilience in children

Each year, as we receive a new “crop” of children we also receive a new group of parents. All of them share a desire for their child to thrive, and almost all of them are stressed about whether their child will be “ready for kindergarten.” That usually is a euphemism for reading, writing, and counting at an (often arbitrary) designated level.  But as educators, we know our job is much more than just providing the foundational academic skills for the children who bless our classes. We need to be preparing them for more than kindergarten; we need to prepare them for life.
When parents ask me if their child should attend preschool or wait until they are three, four, or even in kindergarten before starting “school” I talk with them about the benefits of “school” at this age. It’s not that they learn to read or write or count faster or better than a child home with a parent or nanny or grandmother. It’s that they get to socialize with other children. They learn to share, compromise, experience frustration and build friendships. They learn from and with the community. A big piece of that learning is encountering, often for the first time (especially if they don’t have an older sibling!) another child who may not like them. Or who will challenge them emotionally or even physically. Learning how to deal with frustration, disappointment, and other negative emotions in preschool is critical for building the skills ne eded to do exactly these skills well as adults. Children who build resiliency now will be resilient teens and adults later. Children who learn to “use their words” and find “socially appropriate” ways of expressing anger now, will be less likely to act out violently as teens as adults. Children who understand they don’t always get what they want learn to compromise, problem solve, and collaborate with peers – some of the top skills needed for excellent job performance, and for functioning in community.
We, as educators, know this is our job; we encourage our parents not to lose sight of these important learning goals as well. While a parent’s instinct is to try to smooth all of the lumps and bumps in the road of life, letting children experience the ups and downs is an important part of their development. Visit our website for resources about how to raise resilient kids. Also, we recommend reading the book, “The Blessing ofSkinned Knee,” by Dr. Wendy Mogel.