While adaptability isn’t an inherent trait, the good news is that children can learn to be adaptable. Both parents and teachers play a role in developing and supporting activities to teach adaptability.
When thinking about adaptability in the classroom, one way teachers can help students learn to be adaptable is by removing the stigma of failure. Students who are afraid of failure will turn away from trying new things. But trying new things and getting outside of their comfort zone is key to developing adaptability skills. Also, failure can teach students to learn new ways of doing something, which teaches them how to overcome barriers.
Teachers can help students overcome the fear of failure by rewarding and recognizing effort. Celebrate milestones, not just the end results. If the student does fail, turn the experience into a teachable moment. Meet with the student one-on-one to talk through what happened. Reassure them that it is OK to fail. Brainstorm ways to overcome the obstacles that were in their way and talk about what they could do differently next time.
Other adaptability activities for students include finding ways to pique their curiosity. Build an “I wonder” activity into your lesson plan and ask students to share things they wonder about. Kids are often afraid to ask questions, but teaching them to wonder about things and to ask questions helps feed their curiosity, and curious kids are more adaptable to change.
Teachers can also work with parents to teach children how to self-regulate. Being able to control emotions in the face of change is an element of adaptability. At home, when kids act out, parents can help students take a moment to calm down. They can talk through the problem with their child and help them think of ways to overcome the issue. This teaches kids to stop and think instead of reacting in the moment. Parents and teachers can help kids practice calming exercises, and when a child acts out, remind them to do the calming exercises to help them refocus.
Another activity to teach adaptability is to practice goal setting. When kids have a goal that they are focused on, they will find ways to overcome barriers that get in their way.