Our word for this semester is ‘Adaptability’. While we might know that being able to adapt to new situations and circumstances is a positive trait, research (Martin, Nejad, Colmar, & Liem, 2013) has shown that a student’s ability to adapt predicts both academic and non-academic outcomes.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.  – Charles Darwin

From an early age – often as soon as they’re born, we create structure and routines for our children. However, the reality is that life is far from predictable. In current times, change is happening faster than in previous generations and for children to thrive they must be adaptable to new challenges.

There are three parts to adaptability:


This involves adjusting one’s actions or behaviour in response to uncertainty and new situations. This might be encouraging a student to seek out new information in response to a change, or thinking about the opportunities that a change to routine or a new challenge presents itself.


Adjusting one’s thinking under new circumstances, challenging pessimism and self-doubt.


  • Adjusting one’s negative and positive emotions, managing their fear and anxiety in response to a new situation.

Change is the only constant in life. – Heraclitus

How can we encourage our children to be adaptable?

  • Encourage them to keep calm and realistically assess the pros and cons of a change. By encouraging them to think of solutions they will become more proactive and likely to feel more in control of the situation.
  • Help them to see that changes and challenges are not always negative. Getting them to envisage a positive outcome to whatever they are facing will teach them to be optimistic.

Saying yes to new challenges, persisting when things get tough and bouncing back from setbacks are all key to being adaptable.

Modelling this behaviour for our children is always the best way to achieve changes in their behaviour so try to maintain a positive attitude and an open mind.

For younger children here are a range of activities that will encourage adaptive qualities, such as:

  • Coming up with different ways to use objects, e.g. using pots and pans as musical instruments, using pillows and sheets to create a fort.
  • Doing things that don’t have a wrong or right answer, like discovering ways to order books on a shelf – by colour, or by size? Experiment with smoothies – which flavours work best together?
  • Change the rules or format of existing games. For example, using a football to play basketball, or instead of matching cards in a memory game, pick the opposite!

As much as we try to encourage time away from computers and videos games, research By Matthew Barr at the University of Glasgow has shown games can actually improve student communication skills, resourcefulness and adaptability.

Over an eight-week period, undergraduate students were split into two groups. One group played specific games under controlled conditions while the other group did not.

Commenting on his research Mr Barr said: ‘The findings suggest that such game-based learning interventions have a role to play in higher education. Modern video games often require players to be adaptable and resourceful, and finding multiple ways of accomplishing a task.’

As parents negotiating a world that moves at a much faster pace than when were studying, we must adapt our parenting style to support our children as they navigate their way through the challenges ahead.

Sources: The Conversation