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September 1, 2013
Vol. 71
No. 1

Double Take

Research Alert

The Research on Resilience

Think of resilience as a balance between risks and protective factors. As long as the balance is manageable, people can usually cope. However, for some children, especially those experiencing homelessness, the risks can be overwhelming and the protective factors few and far between.
A recent publication from the National Center for Homeless Education looks at what the research has to say about this tenuous balance. Here are some insights:
  • At-risk children typically experience multiple risk factors that accumulate over time. Differences in outcomes are usually due to this accumulation of risks.
  • Although a supportive school environment has a positive effect on all children, it has an even greater effect on children who've been exposed to higher levels of risk.
  • Quality relationships seem to be the cornerstone of resilience. Although building relationships may seem to require enormous segments of time, brief continued encounters can provide the basis for supportive relationships.
  • Because youth who have strong relational connections in their lives do better in school, relationships can be "a conduit through which academic outcomes are improved" (p. 8).
  • Homeless students are on the "extreme end of a risk continuum" (p. 9), with homeless adolescents showing less academic resilience than younger students do when homeless. Students who are homeless for extended periods are most likely to experience social isolation, rejection, and withdrawal.
  • Mentors to homeless students must understand the needs of at-risk youth and know what the most appropriate supports are. If they lack this knowledge, the relationship risks being short-term, which only exacerbates the insecurity these students feel.
  • "School districts typically do not measure factors with the greatest potential for positive influence on academic resilience in disadvantaged students. … These include self-regulation and executive function," the author notes (p. 11). Strategies designed to improve children's self-regulation can also improve their response to risk.
Authored by Jan Moore from the National Center for Homeless Education, Resilience and At-Risk Children and Youth is available at http://ftp.serve.org/nche/downloads/resilience.pdf.

World Spin

It's All About Empathy, Baby!

In Saskatchewan, Canada, five schools have invited several mothers and their babies to visit classrooms in an effort to reduce violence and aggression in children. As students develop a connection with the babies, they learn about empathy, attachment, and parenting skills.
"I know people would like to call it an antibullying program," explained the program's local director, "but this program puts together pieces that contribute to a less aggressive society."

Relevant Reads

Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life's Greatest Challenges by Steven M. Southwick and Dennis S. Charney (Cambridge University Press, 2012)
In this book, two psychiatrists with backgrounds in neuroscience address the question, What enables some individuals to bounce back from adversity? The authors draw on their research, including extensive interviews with former U.S. prisoners of war in Vietnam; U.S. Special Forces members; and resilient civilians who have experienced severe trauma but who have gone on to lead productive and accomplished lives.
The authors identify 10 roots of resilience: realistic optimism, facing fear, a moral compass, religion and spirituality, social support, resilient role models, physical fitness, brain fitness, cognitive and emotional flexibility, and meaning and purpose. For each of these factors, the authors provide stories, a discussion of the neuroscience involved, and practical ways for individuals to strengthen that factor within themselves.
"We know of no better way to learn about tried-and-true methods for becoming more resilient than to listen to, be inspired by, and follow the advice of resilient people who have already 'been there.'" (pp. 13–14)

Numbers of Note

Why should we teach resilience? Because kids know adversity.
59.4    The percentage of U.S. adults surveyed who experienced at least one of eight "adverse childhood experiences." Of these,
29.1    percent had a substance abuser in their household when growing up.
26.6    percent experienced parental separation or divorce.
16.3    percent witnessed domestic violence as a child.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Adverse childhood experiences reported by adults, five states, 2009. Atlanta, GA: Author. The CDC surveyed 29,212 adults in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Washington.

Online Only

For a list of sources of free kid-tested activities that teach social-emotional skills (suited to different grade levels and some to children with disabilities), visit the "Sample SEL Activities" page of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning's website.
One rich site on the list is WINGS for Kids, an after-school program that builds elementary students' social-emotional competencies through fun activities and by clustering children into small "nests." Here you can download a "DIY Social Emotional Learning Kit" that shows teachers and youth leaders how to incorporate these activities into their school—or after-school—time; a series of anti-bullying lessons; and more. Go to www.youtube.com/wingsforkids to see video clips of kids building their grit through social and emotional learning activities.

Page Turner

"How can a 2nd grader come to believe that all her classmates are superior and that she's utterly inadequate as a learner?"
Mark D. Jacobson, p. 40

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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