The ‘teaching resilience’ myth

The simplistic approaches taken by some schools to promote resilience in their students have been labelled as concerning by author and award-winning parenting speaker Michael Grose.

“The biggest myth surrounding resilience-promotion is that it can be developed by teaching kids a small number of skills and behaviour. This is utterly simplistic as it doesn’t give consideration to a student’s individual circumstances, nor does it include making positive changes to the school or family environments.” said Grose.

“Without being disparaging of some of the currently popular programs, it’s important to point out that many factors impact on a student’s resilience, including personality traits, socio-economic factors, family and geographic background. To base a resilience program around teaching students three or four key skills or behaviours is to create a very false narrative for parents and teachers.”

Helping children to build the skills to be resilient and manage their mental health is important. However, it is important to address the wider causes of, and solutions to, the mental health crisis behind the current resilience push. Schools that address resilience need to take the wider context into account.

For students who live with poverty and abuse, trying to make them more ‘resilient’ can seem like placing the onus on them to deal with something they shouldn’t have to deal with. It also ignores the ways that many children and young people are resilient, having dealt with awful personal situations that many of us can’t imagine. To reduce resilience-promotion to a few simple skills is do this group a disservice.

Rather than viewing resilience as a quality or series of traits that some students have or can learn, we need to understand that resilience exists within a context. It’s time to build a richer, more nuanced understanding of resilience that recognises both a child’s strengths and capabilities, as well as the environment he or she experiences. To teach skills without impacting the environment around a student including family, school and community is to pay lip service to a child’s mental health and wellbeing. We must protect and promote a child’s safety and wellbeing.

It’s tempting to fall for the ‘teaching resilience’ myth as it seems so simple. But complex problems require complex solutions. When we understand the complexity of resilience the responsibility for tackling the mental health crisis amongst kids, particularly girls and young women, it becomes everyone’s business rather than placing the onus on kids ‘to get with the resilience program’.

/Public Release.