The problem with "resilience"

"Resilience" is a well-used word in children’s education and mental health services at the moment.  And for good reason.  Resilience is about learning to be with difficult feelings and circumstances, and to eventually find our way back to a sense of wellbeing.  It’s about weathering the storm.  It’s important.

An important role for adults is to let children have their feelings without needing to fix them.  To put in boundaries and limits and to let children learn from experience.

However, another important role for adult caregivers and educators is to provide a suitable environment in which children can grow and learn.

The problem with the over-use of the term “resilience” is that it can indicate a reluctance by adults to avoid thinking more deeply about a child’s environment and whether it suits a child’s needs.  

“Resilience” can even be used to dismiss other adults who want to have a deeper conversation about say, what’s happening at school, or what happening in our communities, or on the sports field, or in health services.  We hear people saying, “children need to learn to be resilient” as a way of saying “I don’t want to deal with this”, or “children should toughen up” and even, at an unconscious level “this brings up difficult feelings for me”.

Children can’t be “resilient” on their own.  And each child version of “resilient” is different.

Sometimes, it is absolutely appropriate to modify an environment for a child if it doesn't meet the child's needs.  

It doesn’t mean they are not resilient or won’t learn how to be.  

Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash


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