What do we mean when we talk about resilience?

What is resilience? What does it mean for you? This word can be interpreted differently to people. In this blog I’ll talk about what this word means to me, introduce  a wonderful coach and explore how the word ‘resilience’ might generate different responses.

When I work with children, young people and adults, I’m always very mindful of the experiences they have had so far, some of them have experienced a lot of trauma within their short lives so far and this can be related to education, although there are many other factors which contribute to their experiences which can have an impact both positive and negative.  Fleeting comments which a child can interpret in their own way, which may never have been intended as negative, perhaps even intended as reverse psychology, intended as motivation, can all be perceived in different ways.  This might depend on other external factors which we as adults may not always be aware hat person is experiencing.   Children are so very aware of themselves and their peers and again can perceive their peers to be so much better than themselves, they are so rarely able to identify their own skills and achievements, of which come in all sorts of guises and it can be hard to identify or label them as an adult, yet alone as a child. These experiences can stay with a child for many years and even into adulthood, the words or actions constantly ringing in their ears and videos in their mind playing over and over again. Personally, at the age of 10 I recall having a new headteacher, as I was about to leave primary school. the comments made about me were, ‘She’s doing Ok but won’t amount to much’. Wow! They are words you just don’t say out loud. 40+ years later, those words still hit me like a punch when I think of them, despite having completed 3 university courses.

Such experiences can have long-term and life-long effects on a child. It can at times continue to impact how they view themselves and others around them. The emotions linked to this can for some continue to simmer under the surface, waiting to boil over, once the individual is met with a situation that feels too over whelming.

Some may feel that is life and move on, some see this as the meaning of developing resilience. I feel it’s this use of the word resilience that can evoke anger for some families. It can be viewed as pick yourelf and get on with it, pull yourself together, stop crying. This is not how I see resilience.

However, we aren’t all made in the same way, we can’t all do that. I worry about about the long-term effects of burying these emotions.  We are extremely complex, we haven’t all had the same life experiences and none of us know when, what may be perceived as an insignificant situation or comment, can be the thing which pushes us over the edge and into a pit of anxiety. What is overwhelming for one cannot be measured the same by another.

It’s very important to me in my practice and teaching that I encourage and motivate, alongside building confidence but being constantly aware of an individual’s experiences. I’ve recently met Wendy Miller and immediately saw the value in her work.  I identified how she could help support learners alongside provide help and guidance on how I could also further develop my knowledge and practice related to emotional support.

Many children who I work with find it difficult to engage in lessons because of the severe emotional reaction that can occur when they feel they are challenged.  This might not be related to the level of difficulty of the work.  However, along with the child, family and school, together we need to find a way to work to help the individual access education, in an environment where they can feel safe to try and explore and make mistakes and celebrate their successes.  Success isn’t always about passing a test. It might be engaging for longer, feeling less anxious or trying a different way to do something.

Sometimes we need to help that learner develop their resilience and help them to understand themselves, so we can help them to develop strategies to cope during an emotional and challenging time, not bury their emotions.  I asked Wendy to tell me more about her work and how she could support the children I work with, to develop resilience.

Wendy told me:

For me resilience is the ability to bounce back and try again when you have suffered a set back.  This is something that we all need, but it is important that we develop this quality in our children for them to grow into happy, confident and independent adults.

So how do we develop this skill?

Jean Chatzky says “Resilience isn’t a single skill.  It’s a variety of skills and coping mechanisms.  To bounce back from bumps in the road as well as failures, you should focus on emphasising the positive.”  So how do we get to this point?  The work that I do builds children’s self-awareness of how their brains work and how they think, giving them an understanding of why they react and behave in particular ways.  Once they have this knowledge, I teach them strategies that they can draw upon to support them in these situations and they are then better equipped to deal with challenges they are facing.

I recently worked with a young boy who was frightened to try new things because he was worried about making a mistake.  I worked through this with him by reading the Wise for my Size story ‘I Can’t Harry’ with him, where he learned about a boy in a similar situation.  This opened the conversation up and we then worked on understanding how our self-talk is often negative, we call this shade talk.  We identified different types of shade talk: self-beat up; comparison and catastrophising.  Once this was understood we worked on identifying when the shade talk appears, turning it into positive (shine) talk, then planning and practicing how to put this into action.  We also worked on his awareness of comfort, stretch and panic zones and neural pathways.  Through all of this work we worked out what issues caused him to feel overwhelmed and stopped him from participating, how he reacted in these situations and how we could build more positive strategies and awareness.  This led to him being more willing to participate in new situations, gave him the confidence to try again when something didn’t work out and left him with a much more positive mindset.  In our last session he reported that he hadn’t done very well in a test at school, but his reply was ‘It’s ok, I can try again next time.’  I couldn’t have asked for anything more and was so pleased to see the confident, resilient child in front of me.

If you would like to know more about the work that I do then please visit


We’re a few weeks into the school holidays now. I know some children and parents will have a huge sigh of relief as their child isn’t feeling as anxious on a daily basis, about going in to school, friends and school work. I also know for the anxious child, they’ll still be worrying about returning in September, perhaps even to a new school or just a new teacher, or change of timetable, maybe no longer sitting with a person they like or a change in routine, is enough to make them feel anxious.

Sending all my warmest wishes to the families and children who are experiences these thoughts and feelings.

Georgina @CodeBreakers