Building Resiliency in Children

I am a perfectionist.

As a child, I would wake up obscenely early on Saturday mornings to watch a drawing tutorial show.

The show’s target audience was grown adults. This wasn’t a show meant to teach seven-year-olds how to draw, or manage emotions. But there I was sitting cross-legged in front of the TV with my paper and pencil, doing my best.

One morning, the drawing was an owl in flight. The intricate feathers and the fact that the bird was in motion made it particularly difficult. I made one mistake and was furiously erasing as the instructor on the TV moved on to the next step, and the next, as I fell further and further behind.

7-year-old Riley had a minor (ok, major) meltdown.

From then on, my mom recorded the episodes on the VCR so that I could pause whenever I wanted. And I even still have one of my drawings from that show!

Do any of your kids freak out like I did when they fail?

Kids often have strong emotional reactions to failure, even failures that seem small to us, like messing up a drawing.

The ability to identify and manage emotions and feelings, or Emotion Regulation, requires responding to strong emotional situations in a socially acceptable manner. Making a mistake, especially when we have been working hard on something, can cause strong emotions. So it’s important that we build resiliency in children by teaching them how to react and move forward positively from both small and big mistakes. Mistakes can often be a starting point for even better ideas!

Students will start this activity thinking they are just getting the opportunity to free draw. What they don’t know is they’ll soon be playing Musical Drawings! Students will build emotion regulation and resiliency skills when faced with an unexpected situation and learn that sometimes our most creative ideas can come out of unexpected challenges! They will need to call on previous lessons for coping skills to manage emotions that come with giving up control of your work to someone else.

Discussion questions include:

  • How does it feel when you’ve been working hard on something and an unexpected challenge comes along?
  • What are some things we can do when we get upset about something unexpected?
  • How did it feel to have someone else start drawing on the picture you had just been working on? Why?

In the extension activity, Zoo U’s Karma the Chameleon started several doodles, but gave up when she thought she made a mistake. Students must use their imagination to turn the “mistakes” into art by completing Karma’s drawings. It’s a great opportunity to discuss how mistakes can often lead to something greater than our original plan.

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