Building Resilience with The Jigsaw of Perspective

Resilience is such a buzz word now, and rightly so –
we all want to help our students to be able to deal with the ordinary setbacks,
disappointments and problems of everyday life. Some children seem to be able to
do this so much more easily than others - they seem to shake off their setbacks
and dust themselves off with a shrug. Other children seem to go into meltdown
modes at minor disappointments and problems, and it takes them a long time to
get their equilibrium back- these are the kids who get upset when they lose a
game, or don’t get their way in some way or another. Perhaps they may seem
over-sensitive to the rough and tumble of yard –time, or the complexities of
friendships. Of course many children fall somewhere in the middle – being able
to deal with disappointments most of the time, but occasionally finding it overwhelming.
 So undoubtedly, personality influences
resilience to a degree.
But the good news is that we all have natural
resilience skills which we can become aware of and strengthen. What a powerful
concept to introduce to the curriculum! Helping our students to develop their
resilience skills not only can have a powerful effect on their mental health,
but research shows that kids with better emotional regulation skills such as
resilience do better in a whole host of other domains, such as academic
learning, social relationships and behaviour. This makes sense; if a child is
constantly struggling to regulate his/her response to setbacks or
disappointments , his/ her ability to attend to cognitive, social or
behavioural tasks will be impacted. Class-room teachers will no doubt be very
familiar with the time and effort it takes to try to gets these kids back on task
and feeling calm and contented. Investing time in building resilience can pay
off in so many areas of classroom and home life.
There are many strategies which can be used to build
resilience, and using perspective is one of them. When we have a disappointment
or loss, the problem can dominate our mood and lead to a spiral of negative
thoughts and emotions which feed off each other. It can be really hard to see
the big picture; reactions can be disproportionate to the incident. So how can
we develop this crucial skill in children? I created a strategy to try to do
this- The Jigsaw of Perspective©.

I wondered how well my class of seven and eight year
olds would take to this tool – the answer was with ease and enthusiasm. If a
child is upset about something small, I ask them to use this strategy. This
definitely helps them to self-regulate and improves their mood. Of course, it’s
important not to minimise these upsets and disappointments, in fact it’s vital
to help the child to name and express their emotion, then process it before
they are ready to move on. However, for those children who are likely to become
stuck or overwhelmed by a negative emotion, it’s a very useful strategy.
The children now use this tool regularly and feel
proud to share stories of how they use it. One child in my class told us this
week how using the Jigsaw of Perspective stopped him from having a fight with
his younger sister, after she broke one of his toys. He told us that thinking
about his Jigsaw reminded him that he already had so many toys- did he really
need to get so upset about this one? He decided that the answer was no. I feel
that this is amazing emotional intelligence and regulation for an eight year
old to display and share. I am so delighted to see this strategy having such a
positive impact. The kids also encourage their classmates to use this tool,
which is very uplifting to witness. Sometimes I refer to The Jigsaw of Perspective© before a particular event, for example a
game, or allocating parts for the Christmas play. It seems to help the children
not to react disproportionately to the ensuing disappointment; they use their
skill to prepare themselves.
You might want to try this tool of resilience out
with your class and see how it works for them. Of course it’s not just for
children…when I got lost driving around the city recently and went into
mini-meltdown mode, my teenage daughter took great satisfaction in encouraging
me to use my own Jigsaw of Perspective! Parents
of teenagers rarely get away with just talking the talk - no harm I suppose!

Jigsaw of Perspective©
is part of  the Weaving
set of strategies and activities.

Buckley, M. i Saarni, C.(2009.), Emotion Regulation. U: R. Gilman, ES Heubner  M. J. Furlong (ur.), Handbook of Positive Psychology in  Schools (107—118).