“Life constantly throws curve balls at us. It’s inevitable, but it’s how we react to a situation that matters. Every action has a reaction and if we can control our reaction, we can control the outcome.”
Curve balls. It’s all part of life. And it’s clear Gen Z sees a need to be able to adapt quickly to their fast-changing world. The importance of resilience was highlighted by 45% of Gen Z’ers, who told us that ability to deal with and bounce back from, challenging situations was vital.
We believe the best schools should help students develop their resilience, so they have every opportunity for success wherever life takes them. Whether it’s through leading presentations, artistic expression, expeditions, or being encouraged to join social outreach activities, at Nord Anglia we inspire and challenge our students to see the ‘art of the possible’ in whatever they do.
We sat down with Pepa Pin, Head of Upper Primary at Eton School Mexico, to discuss how resilience can be better developed in children.
I’ve been an educator for 30 years, and I think resilience is an incredibly important life skill. It’s the ability to adapt or learn from difficult or testing situations, and just like wellbeing or confidence it’s part of a wider skillset that allows children to take on challenges, understand themselves, and develop a growth mindset.
Setting students up for future success is reliant on resilience. The most successful learners I’ve seen are those who are constantly building upon this skill, both with teachers in class as well as outside of school. It’s our role as educators to help our students develop and tap into their resilience whenever they need to.
Like a lot of important life skills, I think what lies at the core of teaching resilience is exposure to safe adversity, as well as having some degree of responsibility. If a child has opportunities to be stretched, like a muscle, they become more flexible in their responses and are equipped with the tools to handle challenges and failures, both big and small.
Here’s my tips to help you practice this at home:
Giving your child age-appropriate tasks around the house can be a great way to develop resilience at any age. If you have a 3- to 5-year-old, you could encourage them to help to set the table, put away groceries, or help to sort laundry.
If you instead have a Gen Z student in middle or secondary school, have them clean their rooms, do the dishes, or help with the gardening. And if you have older Gen Z’ers, you could get them to cook a meal for the family once a week, walk the dog, or be responsible for keeping a certain room in the house clean and tidy.
Of course, being resilient means they need to stick to it week after week!
When parents embrace their own mistakes, you’re modelling resilience and problem-solving to your children — showing that mistakes can be overcome and that trying again and finding ways to improve is a natural part of solving problems. This will help your child develop that growth mindset I mentioned earlier. It will also develop a willingness to take risks and try new things — important qualities for building resilience.
Funnily enough, I was chatting with a parent named Alejandra who I think hit the nail on the head when she said resilience is so important because today kids are dealing with such a connected and changing world. “They’ve got to be able to grow, learn, improve all the time, but most importantly they need to be able to learn from mistakes,” she said, and I couldn’t agree more.
I believe the world’s best schools (like Eton in Mexico!) challenge students and help them build resilience, both in and out of the classroom.
Joining a sports team or a social club can provide your child with an environment outside of their comfort zone where they’ll develop social skills that serve them for the rest of their lives and give them new skills as they work with peers.
This isn’t limited to younger children— sports clubs or the Duke of Edinburgh award can provide brilliant opportunities of self-discovery for young adults too.
I’d also encourage parents to praise specific actions that a child did rather than simply saying "good job" or giving broader praise like “wow, you’re so good at Maths”. More specific praise can help children understand exactly what they did well and in turn reinforce those positive behaviours.
For example, with a younger child, you could say something like "I'm so proud of you for cleaning up your toys all by yourself! That’s so grown up of you!” This kind of specific praise not only acknowledges the child's efforts but also helps them understand why their actions were helpful.
When we talk about these life skills — including resilience, confidence, wellbeing, and empathy — it’s important to recognise that they’re not mutually exclusive. That’s the best bit: by taking one step on this journey, we start building a wide reaching and valuable skillset that will serve our children for the rest of their lives.
That’s one of the reasons I’m so proud of what we’re doing across Nord Anglia to develop skills and attitudes for success — as the world continues to change, our education offer continues to evolve to meet our students’ needs.