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Resilience in Times of Change

04 June 2015

Within the dynamic social landscape of an international school, children from a very young age have to cope with considerable change in their lives and with only a few weeks to go until the end of the school year, there are lots of changes afoot. 

  • Children playing at the British International School Shanghai

Some of our families have big changes ahead as they pack up their lives ready to leave Shanghai to return to their home country or to move onto new adventures in different countries. While for others the changes might be smaller, but still significant, such as moving home, children moving into a new phase of their schooling or saying goodbye to close friends.  While this life provides an incredible breadth of wonderful experiences for our children, it also brings with it challenges for every member of the family, not least the children.

This rich international life both instils and requires a high degree of resilience in our children. We see on a daily basis the ability of even our youngest students to steer though serious life challenges, finding ways to bounce back and to thrive. They have to be brave and confident to be the new child in a new environment. They may have to learn in a different language and understand the cultural differences of their classmates. They have to be open-minded to accept new children into their friendship circles. They have to go through the sadness of saying goodbye to special friends, sometimes again and again.

This complex social environment is not an easy one and so it is essential that as a school community we are sensitive and alert to the challenges and anxieties faced by children, particularly at key times in the year. As we approach the end of the school year, we are saying goodbye to many families who are moving onto new adventures. For the children leaving, this is a time of great anxiety and stress as they deal with a lot of mixed emotions; the practical upheaval involved in a house move, and probably stressed parents!  For the children staying with us, it is likewise a time of possible anxiety as they worry about friendships or new class teachers.

Having a resilient mindset will help children to navigate, cope and thrive with all this change in their lives. However, while we are born with a capacity for resilience, it is not something we have or don’t have. So what can we do to help our children develop this essential life skill and how can we consciously nurture a mindset of resilience in our children throughout their lives

  • Positive Role Modelling -as adults we need to be positive role models as children will see how we cope with stress and echo that in their behaviours. We might not feel calm at this busy time of year, or with the house move in process, but we do have to try to look calm to the children.
  • Active Listening -we need to ensure that we make time to really listen to what our children are feeling, and allow and support them to express their emotions.
  • Empathy -we need to show empathy, letting them know that you understand how they feel, even if you do not actually agree with them.
  • See the Positive – help children look for the positives in the situation, highlighting all the good things that will come with the changes.

The next few weeks will be a busy but emotional time at school as we round off one more school year. So much has been achieved and there is so much to celebrate and we want to ensure that these final weeks are positive and happy for all the children. We want them all to end on a high and leave the year with only great memories and the confidence and resilience to charge forward into new adventures!

I would also like to extend a huge thanks to all the parents for your generosity and kindness in providing a delicious and plentiful banquet of goodies for the teachers and staff for “Teacher Appreciation Day”. We were genuinely touched by your actions and the huge effort you put into the treats that you gave us. We were very happy and definitely a few kilos heavier by the end of the day! Many thanks on behalf of all the staff.

- Niki Meehan, Head of Primary