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nasen: Resilience – the golden thread to understanding the way in which we can work together to support young children’s development and learning

22 Feb 2021|09:43

In March 2020 there was a change to the everyday lives of people across the UK and worldwide. The Covid-19 pandemic had, and continues to have, a profound impact on the way in which we carry out our day-to-day lives. Language such as ‘social distancing’, ‘lockdown’, ‘face coverings’, ‘working from home’, ‘furlough’ and ‘isolation’ started to be heard in every household.

Households with established patterns of daily life including going to work, school, nursery, seeing family and friends were suddenly faced with the reality of significant changes to their daily lives. The need for adaptation and overcoming obstacles and thinking outside the box became imperative. This was a challenge like no other to each and every family’s resilience.

Explaining resilience, Harvard Centre on the Developing Child uses the analogy of a see saw or balancing scales. If the child or family have more challenges, difficulties and adversity compared to positive experiences and support, then the balance tips towards more negative outcomes. When the same level of difficulties is balanced by support networks, positive actions and capacity to adapt to challenges, then the balance tips toward more positive outcomes. It is the development of resilience that helps to keep the scales in balance.

The pandemic led to a huge increase in the vulnerability of families through food poverty, unemployment and financial pressures including a reduction of income and increasing costs for meeting their child’s needs at home.

In May 2020, a survey of parents of disabled children and young people, to which there were 4,074 responses from across the country, was carried out by Disabled Children’s Partnership. The survey showed that for families of children with SEND there are, and continue to be, additional challenges such as the reduction or disappearance of support for short breaks, difficulty in getting support from specialists, and a slowing down or delay in assessment processes causing additional concern about getting the right support for their child. 70-80% of responses reported worsening emotional and mental health for both their child and themselves. The report also noted that there was particular concern about the pressure of children’s behaviour and managing home-schooling and what would happen if their child contracted Covid-19.

The report also noted that:

‘The majority (64%) of parents were worried about how much home schooling they were doing with their disabled child and nearly a third (32%) said they were receiving no support specific to their child's needs from school. On the other hand, a quarter were getting good support.’

The need for easy to access support, and ideas for activities parents and carers could do in partnership with their child’s setting or school was therefore a key priority.

The Department for Education (DfE) commissioned nasen to create a freely available resource for use by Early Years practitioners and parents of young children, which would contribute towards strengthening relationships with parents and families of young children. The Resilience Development Pack, ‘7 Days, Many Ways – working together to build resilience through relationships is available here.

The ideas contained in the resource are grouped under 7 themes:

  • Movement Mondays
  • Turn-taking Tuesdays
  • Well-being Wednesdays
  • Thoughtful Thursdays
  • First Time Fridays
  • Sensory Saturdays
  • Celebrate Sundays

The original focus was on the very important issue of transitions for young children with SEND, as they returned to settings following lockdown and periods of time away from their existing setting. The ideas in the resource were created to be flexible and to support children through the wide variety of transitions they are making into any Early Years setting.

As time moved on, the changing landscape for children and families meant that building resilience into everything we do is the difference between children and families merely surviving and to thriving and ‘bouncing forward’, with ways to face and solve future challenges and changes. Realising that resilience is not a fixed attribute but one that changes across a lifetime, allows us to see that the impact of what we do now and how we do it, is cumulative.

The Resilience Development Pack offers a focus for practitioners to take a pro-active role in reaching out to parents, especially those parents of young children with additional needs or SEND.

The ideas and activities are focused on supporting children through the 7 C’s of resilience, as adapted from the work of Kenneth Ginsburg: connection, confidence, character, contribution, competence, coping and control. They are provided as a starting point with suggestions being made for adaptations as not all suggestions will be appropriate for every child. The emphasis is on the experience rather than the outcome of the activity. Parents and those who know the child well are encouraged to choose what is likely to work for that child.

Parents and practitioners will make discoveries about a child’s unique abilities, enjoy shared time together, treasure and celebrate a child’s development and increased resilience. The key for getting the greatest impact from the resources, is the relationship between parents and practitioners which will allow sharing of their experiences. The reason for this is that although resilience draws on our inner and immediate resources (problem solving, creativity, perseverance and many others), equally important are the different ways resilience can be supported by others in our wider network.

Extensive work has been carried out at the Harvard Centre on the Developing Child who recognise that children’s resilience is inextricably linked to resilience in the child’s family and community, including the setting or school where the child spends time. They suggest that:

‘The active ingredients in building resilience are supportive relationships with parents, coaches, teachers, caregivers, and other adults in the community.’

They also note that:

‘The single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, carer or other adult.’

nasen has provided support to use the pack through webinars and webcasts for practitioners and parents and new downloadable resources to support use of the pack are available too which include:

  • ‘Top Tips’
  • Weekly Diary (including an example)
  • Daily Activity Planner (including an example)
  • ‘Building the Resilience Jigsaw’ prompts, each of which focusses on one of the 7C’s of resilience.
  • Additional webinars and webcasts addressing each of the 7 daily themes.

In addition to the Resilience Development Pack and its associated resources, the nasen website hosts a wide support, training, and resources to help you to support the families, children and young people you work with:

www.nasen.org.uk/early-years

www.nasen.org.uk/covid-19

If we all work together, we can contribute positively to the ongoing challenges faced by those we work alongside, with and for.