The global proliferation of news, social comment and electronic networking means that 21st Century students are more connected and aware of their place in the world than ever before. Gone are the days of prolonging a childhood, allowing the emotional maturity to grow strong enough to cope with the challenges of life. These days, teenagers have to battle through a mine-field of entrance exams, public exams and university applications.. In addition to this, the social network world means that adolescent life is played out on-line, in streamed video, as tagged photos and with a daunting lack of privacy. 'School boy errors' are recorded in the electronic ether forever and there's no sense of emotional respite when the school day ends. Little wonder that young people today find it hard to cope and many struggle to find the emotional resilience they need to attain their potential, not just as learners, but as happy, confident young people of the future. However, if schools and families can work together, there remains tremendous hope and reason to be cheerful. It is reassuring to know that in this ever-changing world, the key to growing emotionally resilient young people lies in the timeless traits of developing human character: the strength of an individual to cope with adversity and to keep on going.
It's striking how often two pupils face similar personal challenges and yet one will find himself hampered by the changing circumstances, perhaps resulting in diminished learning and long-term loss of self-esteem, while the other child falters, yet moves on and continues to achieve. It seems that the time has come to look at what helps young people to become resilient and the role that schools, parents, pupils and professionals can play in this development.
10 key traits of resilient teenagers in high-performing schools
1. They are involved. They maintain their role in extra-curricular activities whether sports, music, drama or a personal hobby. Even when times get tough they keep up this involvement, at whatever level of talent. They don't have to be great at it, but seeing this activity as part of their life is vital. It gives them perspective, social interaction and a sense of belonging.
2. They help others. This might be peer support at school, outreach teaching to younger children, sports coaching...time and again the benefits of regularly helping others are enormous in maintaining self-esteem and sense of worth.
3. Their parents remain positive with them and the school. Young people learn so much from the almost unsaid of their parents, they remember the body language, a criticism forever and praise for a fleeting moment and they watch and learn from their parents' interaction with their teachers.
4. They foster positive relationships with their teachers. Often this means that they may come to spend time with their teacher outside of the classroom: perhaps a school event, music or sports. Just talking to and getting to know a teacher they like will give them a great sense of support and constancy whilst growing up.
5. They maintain personal routines such as sleep patterns, eating and finding the time to rest in a calm environment. In essence, they invest in themselves and they see this is as important.
6. They have a voice and a sense of autonomy at home and school. Parents and teachers provide calm dialogue with them. They may not agree with everything that they have to do, but they will realize that they had a fair hearing. There's usually a routine of discussion that they come to expect.
7. They are praised appropriately and encouraged to recognize their qualities by teachers and parents. They will have a sense that they parents find time to listen to them everyday, eat dinner with them and take a genuine interest in their life.
8. They find friends that they can spend time with- not on a social network, but face to face and ideally as part of a regular event. They learn to listen and care about other people, as much as themselves.
9. They know that at times they will not always achieve everything they want. They learn to manage these disappointments, share them with others and keep pushing ahead with their changing personal goals.
10. They learn to know what makes them happy before adversity arrives. They have certain activities, routines or people that they know they can turn to when times are hard or change is forced upon them.