Building resilience with children you work with is a slow steady, persistent task; it takes time for an ‘injured’ child to trust what you are doing is authentic and genuine. They will have suffered inconsistencies in their care. They will have little faith that things will turn out alright because they haven’t seen the evidence that supports this. However, some children naturally have a more resilient personality and will be affected differently from this inconsistent care.
So how do you start building trust? I have found that it starts with being honest with children, being concerned for them but not excusing their poor behaviour. Often when you begin building a trusting relationship they will do something outrageous and then say something along the lines of “I bet that’s it now you don’t want to work with me anymore” or “I bet you hate me now”. It is important to stress at this point that you are disappointed with their behaviour but that you still care and you still want to support them.
This ‘testing’ behaviour can go on for some time because they still don’t believe that you can really care what happens to them. The next stage is normally ownership of their behaviour ie when they act out they will come to you and say things like “I know, I know I messed up, I’m sorry” or “Oh miss why did I do that?”; despite knowing that they messed up they know that they can still rely on you.
In my opinion, the most important thing is to just ‘be there’; for them to sound off to, for them to run ideas by. For them to trust you with something or to just support them when everyone else seems to have given up on them. I have been to concerts and sports events in and out of school to support children I have worked with because no one else was going, I felt that they needed to know that someone cared.
Depending on a child’s circumstance and personality, some will take months to build some armour, but for some other students who are more damaged and vulnerable, it takes years. It is a difficult task helping build resilience in a child but it is one of the most rewarding ones too when a child grows and shines.