Students who embark on their post-secondary journey are often filled with excitement and anticipation about this next important milestone of their lives. For many young adults, leaving for college is the first time they’re truly “on their own.”

With this newfound independence comes many stressors they’ve never had to cope with on their own before. Busy course loads, extracurricular activities, work schedules and financial demands, relationships, and other unanticipated obstacles can test a young person’s resilience.

By definition, resilience is the ability to bounce back from adverse experiences. This skill is crucial for post-secondary students to weather the various storms of young adulthood without developing unhealthy coping methods, depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems.

As educators, we are responsible for fostering emotional endurance in our students and providing them with helpful resources for additional support. Here are five strategies for building resilience at the post-secondary level that you can start implementing today.
5 Strategies for Teaching Resilience to Post-Secondary Students

1) Promote Pockets of Positivity

You can work in “pockets of positivity” in every class you teach, and these small activities don’t need to take more than a few minutes out of your schedule. For example, begin your PowerPoint presentation with a positive affirmation, or ask your students to write down one thing they’re grateful for before leaving class. Focusing on the positive shifts one’s mindset from negative and anxious thoughts to a brighter outlook.

2) Emphasize the Importance of Mental Health and Self-Care

According to Harvard Summer School’s website, 70-96% of college students get fewer than eight hours of sleep a night, and over half of them sleep fewer than seven hours. Adequate rest and other aspects of essential self-care are deeply connected to being resilient. I recommend making yourself aware of the mental health and self-care resources your institution offers its students. You can even include a brief resource section in your syllabus as a reference.

3) Model and Encourage SMART Goal-Setting

A person’s ability to identify and develop SMART goals goes hand-in-hand with building resilience because the journey to the end result requires perseverance, grit, and a positive attitude. Ask your students to write down three SMART goals at the beginning of the semester. These are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Then, check in with them throughout the course to help them gauge whether they’re on track or if they need to alter their original goals. A little encouragement goes a long way.

5) Encourage Growth Mindset

One of the most important ways educators can cultivate resiliency in their students is by modeling and encouraging a growth mindset. With a growth mindset, you’re choosing to focus on how a person reacts to failure and keeps going instead of giving up and believing they’ve failed. The focus is on the learning process as much as on the end result.

6) De-Stigmatize Failure

In my years of teaching, one thing that has stuck with me has been how many of my students had an almost paralyzing fear of failure. Unfortunately, this significantly impacted their ability to be resilient. That fear often either prevented them from trying in the first place, or they gave up when they weren’t met with immediate success.

De-stigmatizing failure is another way to foster resilience in your post-secondary students. For example, you can prioritize focused feedback over grades and highlight areas of mastery. Encourage self-reflection throughout the learning process in order for students to see areas where they need to focus more. Finally, frame the concept of mastery as a sometimes-uncomfortable process worth the time and effort each person puts in.

Resilience is more important now than it has ever been before. Helping young people develop healthy ways of coping with the unpredictability of daily life is everyone’s responsibility, and it’s especially vital at the post-secondary level. I hope these suggestions help you develop your own strategies that you can implement with your classes, and I offer what guidance and support I can for my fellow educators in this unprecedented time. Take care, my friends.


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