One of the common concerns (or criticisms) that often gets raised when parents/carers take their children out of their mainstream educational setting, whether to home educate or put them in an alternative provision or a school with an alternative approach, is ‘how will they build resilience’?
This is particularly asked in regards to bullying or a young person’s ability to cope within the social setting of a classroom. However, we’d argue that there are other ways to build resilience. Ways that aren’t so traumatic or upsetting for young people, and ways that will have an overall positive impact on the learners, rather than being the unhappy consequence of having a miserable time in school.
Spending time outside, all year round, is an amazingly effective and simple way to build resilience. By being outdoors regularly, no matter what the weather, we are able to experience a range of sensations and learn how to adapt to whatever Mother Nature throws at us. It goes without saying that it’s important to have the right clothing for this to make sure that we keep ourselves as comfortable as we can. However, even the most watertight of wellies and coats can’t always keep out the wind and rain and learning to endure that is a very valuable skill.
It’s not just learning to cope in the cold and wet either. Once outdoors, we have to be able to coexist with all the bugs and beasties that live in our woods, we have to make sensible choices about where to walk, where to sit, where to eat. We have to stay out of the smoke when sat round the campfire, we have to fine using compost loos. There are a lot of experiences that we can have by regularly going outside that are great at helping build resilience in a really positive, meaningful way.
2. Learning From Mistakes
We’ve spoken about this before but embracing failure and not giving up at the first hurdle is such an important life lesson and a fantastic way to build resilience! We really believe that learning from our mistakes is a vital component of the learning journey and that it is important to try and encourage young people not to be too discouraged or knocked back when something doesn’t work out first time round.
We encourage our learners to assess why something didn’t work and then try again, making changes needed, based on their observations to hopefully allow for a better rate of success when repeated. Sometimes things work on the second time, sometimes they still fail on the third, fourth, fifth, sixth….time – but we think the important thing is to support our learners to not give up, to remain positive and resilient and to help them achieve their goals.
3. Embracing New Experiences
Being able to try new things is not to be underestimated. Particularly for neurodiverse young people, being able to reach out of their comfort zones to enter an unknown environment, can be really overwhelming. But we believe that when given support and encouragement, this is a brilliant way to build resilience when a young person feels safe enough and trusts the people around them to try something new. Whether this is tasting new foods, going somewhere they’ve never been before or trying an activity of sport they haven’t done before, being able to do this is a huge achievement and should be encouraged, supported, and celebrated.
Not knowing what to expect from an experience can be really unsettling and sometimes, really scary, but within a supportive environment, it’s great if the young people we’re with are able to work through those uncomfortable emotions to try something new. The elation on their faces when they’ve had a positive new experience is just amazing and often emboldens them for the next time they face something unknown.
What other ways do you think we can help to build resilience in young people in a positive, empowering manner? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences, so do leave us a comment if you’ve got something to share with us.
Author: Hannah Durdin, Content Officer & Forest School Leader
Date: Saturday 21st October 2023