As we grow up and transition into adulthood, we must deal with change, and the accompanying uncertainty, time after time. We must be able to deal with such change quickly and adapt well to new situations so the question becomes: how can we foster this resilience? How can children prepare for changing schools or changing teacher or facing an after school club without their best friend?
What is resilience?
Resilience is the ability to recover quickly and well from difficulties; in children this resilience is commonly shown in children’s ability to change school or year group and continue to flourish. This ability to adapt positively is a valuable life skill because life never quits surprising us, nor would we want it to. There are many aspects of resilience: being able to form meaningful relationships with others, being confident in and enjoying novel situations, being optimistic, persisting through obstacles and so the list continues. Ultimately resilience ensures children, and the adults they grow into, are capable of dealing with difficult challenges and come out the other side stronger.
How does theatre fit into resilience?
Theatre can help children build resilience in order to be able to deal with changing situations fluently and confidently. Part of resilience is being able to assess our situations objectively, in drama for example this means being able to listen to people’s constructive criticism and work alongside them to improve your piece. This collaborative approach allows us to see things from a different perspective. In later life we can use this same approach to look at seemingly negative changes from a new angle and be more optimistic about what change can bring.
Theatre also promotes sociability, which has been found to be important in dealing with mildly stressful situations which, when successful, helps us develop resilience to stress. Sociability and working with others also means you must be flexible – almost a synonym for resilience! Big Bold Youth strives to provide drama activities that involve working as an ensemble and thus that are capable of building life long friendships. Youth Theatre can be more than the most fun and creative part of the week but also positively influence the rest of your life.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, theatre is able to teach children about persistence: if troubles arise before the end of year play you cannot give up, as the saying goes ‘the show must go on’. We must, instead of quitting, find ways around our problems, an activity which teaches children the importance of not giving up over every hurdle in their life and can help develop key problem solving skills.
You may be asking yourself, why theatre? Why not experience these things through everyday life in the classroom? The answer is because theatre can transfer to other aspects of life, because youth theatres such as ourselves provide an inclusive, accepting and inspiring environment that allow features of resilience such as flexibility and perseverance to be nurtured. Theatre is much more than acting, because even if the stage is left behind, the skills and experiences of theatre live on and help children to thrive and conquer obstacle after obstacle. Ultimately resilience is not a skill to just learn, it is a skill that takes constant work but what better place to start than with a nurturing environment such as theatre?
Written by Ellie