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Building Resilience, All Year Long:

As the school year unfolds, is the stress level rising at your house?

Does your teen feel a ton of pressure?

Or, is your teen managing her growing workload with ease, as she works toward her academic goals?

We’re now weeks into another school year, used to our routines. Students have a “groove” in their courses, and grasp teachers’ expectations. Many students have their eye on specific, measurable goals for academic progress (and other activities), and they’re working hard toward them.

Now is the time students begin to see whether or not their goals are within reach. Their progress so far shows whether or not they’re on track.

Even though there are many months left in the school year for progress, some kids can get stuck in overwhelm, fearing failure. They may panic if they have a minor setback at this time.

Recently I’ve had a few phone calls from parents concerning stressed out teenagers. One Mom asked, “do students ever get totally stuck, this early, in Grade 11?”

The answer is YES, all the time! (The same goes for students in grades 9, 10, and 12, but grade 11 can be particularly overwhelming since students know their marks can impact post-secondary admissions.)

Many students are tired and stressed at mid-term. Their teachers may not know them yet, or “get” them. A test result could be far from their hopes. Maybe they’re riding the bench on the basketball team, instead of leading the starting line; or for those students eager to head up a club, perhaps they haven’t filled the role they’d imagined.

I urge parents to use moments of teen stress and insecurity to help them build their resilience and perseverance muscles. Struggles and setbacks are part of life, and these are perfect times to encourage kids push through them. These situations will make our kids stronger.

I challenge parents to not only help kids work through specific difficult situations, but also to create an environment in which their children are set up to build resilience every day.

Here are some key ways to set the stage for building resilience throughout the school year:

1. Make physical health a priority. The right amount of sleep and exercise, as well as proper nutrition, makes a huge impact on one’s ability to persevere during a setback. Imagine the energy needed to study for a test, or run a cross-country race. We need to be physically healthy to do these things well.

2. Have a circle of trust. An adult “outside” the immediate family can provide caring to your child/teen. Acknowledge the encouragement that coaches, instructors, extended family members, and teachers can offer. Use their support, and rely on it. Sometimes kids want to talk to someone other than Mom or Dad. It takes a village.

3. Practice positive parenting. Role model perseverance and resilience in your day-to-day. Demonstrate grit when the going gets tough in your life. Talk about what you learn from daily struggles, and your failures. Encourage kids and teens to never fear failure, and to get rid of stigmas associated with it.

4. Belong to something. Kids and teens can be themselves and take risks when removed from their school social groups. Belonging to a social community outside of school can lay the foundation for growth of resilience. If kids know they have more than one social outlet, it’s safer to risk failing or looking foolish, and this ultimately will help them build their resilience muscle.

5. Have a sense of control over one’s life. Show your kids they can make their own choices about many aspects of their lives: friends, passions, courses, direction, to name a few.

I encourage parents to help their kids build resilience and persevere when they hit a bump this year — and to create an environment in which being resilient is the norm every day of the school year.

Mid-term progress reports are coming soon!

Whatever happens, show your children all the opportunities for personal growth, and show them they’re capable of a pumping up a stronger resilience muscle.

Contact Right Track today for information about Right Track’s Study Skills Bootcamps, High School Blueprint, and other services supporting kids and teens during their academic journey! We would love to chat to see if we can help during school transitions and challenges.

This blog post was adapted from a piece I wrote for Resilient People: Stories to Inspire, a site founded by Janet Fanaki. This blog shares the stories of "regular" people who have done extraordinary things in their lives. Thank you Janet for the opportunity to write for your amazing community! And, thank you for the amazing work you do! Check it out today - you'll love it.


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