SBR Lessons

Lesson 1: Resilience

Core Concepts

Resilience, according to several lines of research is:

  1. 1. Handling challenges effectively despite difficult circumstances
  2. 2. Bouncing back from and coping effectively with difficulties
  3. 3. Bending without breaking under challenges
  4. 4. Recovering from setbacks and continuing to forge ahead

Resilience is not about shying away from problems, minimizing them, or avoiding them. We all do this, from time to time, but eventually this approach can hurt us and cause us to pick up bad coping habits. It may be tough in the moment, but dealing with our problems directly helps deal with challenges better in the future.

*Resilient individuals:

  1. 1. Show specific qualities, such as optimism, self-efficacy, social and emotional awareness, self-control, and decision-making.
  2. 2. Are better at recognizing their emotions, keenly aware how to act in order to manage negative emotions.
  3. 3. Are able to control what happens in their lives. They also tend to perceive difficult situations as challenges rather than threats and distinguish between what is within their control to change and what is not.
  4. 4. When beyond their control, can more easily accept their limitations, control their internal reactions and let go more easily of the need to control.

* (Maddi et al., 2009; Hass & Graydon, 2009; Ungar, Ghazinour & Richter, 2013)


Videos of Core Concepts

Animation: What makes resilience?
This animation defines the concept of resilience and describes its ingredients.


Resilience: Anticipate, organize, adapt
This animated video illustrates key concepts regarding resilience and how this trait is a feature of human’s evolving history.


InBrief: The Science of Resilience
This brief clip from The Centre on the Developing Child at Harvard University examines aspects of the brain science related to resilience.



Learning & Cultural Fit

1. Students can draw pictures or use photographs, artifacts, souvenirs, letters of appreciation, awards, or certificates to describe and share their stories of resilience.

2. Ask students who are shy or modest what their close family members and best friends might say, if asked to describe a time the student was resilient. If they still can’t think of a story, have students ask a close family member or best friend to write a story of resilience about them.

3. Students from cultural backgrounds where modesty is highly valued may find this exercise challenging initially. They may view it as an expression of self-congratulation and immodesty, and may find it incompatible with their cultural expectations. Emphasize that the exercise is about exploring one’s resilience, self-awareness and growth and less about showing off to others.

4. To facilitate cultural appropriateness, students can share a story of resilience that involves working with others in overcoming the challenge.

5. Students uncomfortable to share a personal story for a variety of reasons can share a story of someone they know who overcame a challenge in a resilient way.


  • Everyday Applications

  • • We experience hassles, stressors and setbacks in everyday life. Remember, resilience is bouncing back from these challenges. Next time you experience a challenge in everyday life, recall the story you wrote in this lesson. Remembering times when we overcame past challenges reinforces how capable we are of overcoming future ones.

    • Reflect on everyday hassles, stressors, and setbacks in order to better understand aspects of your resilience. Do you apply the same strategies over and over to solve a problem and discover they are not working? By being more observant, can you notice what strategies work better? In your upcoming challenges, are there new strategies you can apply from your story of resilience?

    • Failures, setbacks, challenges, and adversities are unfortunately the best times to test your resilience. Remind yourself that setbacks and challenges tend to be temporary. They do not need to define you or determine everything in your life and are not caused by you alone.


It may be tough in the moment, but dealing with our problems directly helps deal with challenges better in the future.


Bibliography for Lesson 1: Resilience

  1. Brownlee, K., Rawana, J., Franks, J., Harper, J., Bajwa, J., O’Brien, E., et al. (2013). A systematic review of strengths and resilience outcome literature relevant to children and adolescents. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 30(5), 435-459.

  2. Hass, M., & Graydon, K. (2009). Sources of resiliency among successful foster youth. Child and Youth Services Review, 31, 457-463.

  3. Larson, S. (2010). Strength-based discipline that taps into the resilience of youth. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 18(4), 22.

  4. Leppert, K., & Strauss, B. (2011). The role of resilience for coping in different age groups. Zeitschrift Für Gerontologie Und Geriatrie, 44(5), 313.

  5. Maddi, S. R., Harvey, R. H., Khoshaba, D. M., Fazel, M., & Resurreccion, N. (2009). The Personality Construct of Hardiness, IV: Expressed in Positive Cognitions and Emotions Concerning Oneself and Developmentally Relevant Activities. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 49(3), 292–305.

  6. Masten, A. S. (2001). Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development. American Psychologist, 56, 227-238.

  7. McGrath, R. E. (2015). Character strengths in 75 nations: An update. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 10(1), 41–52.

  8. Nickolite, A. & Doll, B. (2008). Resilience Applied in School: Strengthening Classroom Environments for Learning. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 23, 338-348.

  9. Reivich, K. & Shatté, A. (2002). The Resilience Factor: 7 Essential Skills for Overcoming Life’s Inevitable Obstacles. New York, NY: Broadway.

  10. Shoshani, A., & Slone, M. (2016). The resilience function of character strengths in the face of war and protracted conflict. Frontiers in Psychology, 6.

  11. Ungar, M. (2008). Resilience across cultures. British Journal of Social Work, 38, 218–235.

  12. Ungar, M., Ghazinour, M., & Richter, J. (2013). What is Resilience Within the Ecology of Human Development? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54(4), 348-366.

  13. Ungar, M., Russell, P., & Connolly, G. (2014). School-based interventions to enhance the resilience of students. Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology, 4, 66-83.