Raising Resilient Kids

Modern families experience tremendous amounts of stress.  Children and adolescents are especially susceptible to mounting pressures from academics, extracurriculars, and their peers.

In today’s environment, children and teens need to develop strengths, acquire skills to cope, recover from hardships, and be prepared for future challenges. They need to be resilient in order to succeed in life.

The good news? Resiliency — the ability to adapt successfully to stress, trauma, and adversity in all stages of life — can be learned, says the American Psychological Association.

While the journey to learning and building resiliency will be as different as each child’s individual personality, there are some tips that can be of universal help to children of all ages.


Competence describes the feeling of knowing that you can handle a situation effectively. We can help the development of competence by:

  • Focusing on a child’s individual strengths
  • Allowing children the power to make their own decisions 
  • When identifying mistakes, place focus on specific incidents
  • Avoiding sibling comparisons and recognizing the competencies of each child individually
  • As parents, reinforcing your own confidence in the child’s abilities and strengths to avoid mistakenly sending the message that you don’t think he or she is competent to handle difficult situations


A child’s belief in his own abilities is derived from competence. Build confidence by:

  • Focusing on the strengths and best traits in each child so he or she can begin to recognize them as well
  • Expressing the best qualities of the child’s personality, such as integrity, persistence, kindness and fairness
  • Acknowledging accomplishments and a job well done
  • Being realistic about a child’s limits and not pushing them to take on more than he or she can handle
  • Sincerely praising specific achievements and not diffusing praise that may lack authenticity 


Connecting with others is a learned behavior. You can help your child connect with others  — and themselves — by:

  • Fostering healthy relationships that will reinforce positive messages
  • Diffusing feelings of isolation and lack of social support by building a solid family network and supportive friend group, thus allowing a child to bounce back more quickly when faced with a difficult situation
  • Building a sense of physical safety and emotional security within your home
  • Creating a common area where the family can share quality time


Processing challenges out loud is imperative to building resilience.  Talking about an experience helps us to understand not only what we’ve been through but also what we need to do to move forward.  You can help your child communicate by:

  • Allowing the expression of all emotions, so that kids will feel comfortable reaching out during difficult times
  • Addressing conflict openly in the family to resolve problems


Good nutrition, sufficient sleep, and regular exercise — these are all things we would like to incorporate more of into our lives. But self-care is especially important for children. Help your child build healthy habits by:

  • Creating balanced, nutritious meals
  • Allowing adequate time for quality sleep, which can dramatically affect mental and physical well-being 
  • Encouraging expression of a child’s personality through a creative medium, whether it be art, playing a sport, music, etc.


Learning to cope effectively with stress will help your child be better prepared to overcome life’s challenges. Positive coping strategies include:

  • Modeling positive coping strategies on a consistent basis
  • Guiding your child to develop positive and effective coping strategies
  • Realizing that telling him or her to stop the negative behavior may not be an effective strategy
  • Understanding that many risky behaviors are attempts to alleviate stress and pain in kids’ daily lives that he or she may not be able to communicate
  • Not condemning your child for negative behaviors and, potentially, increasing his or her sense of shame

At the end of the day, there will always be stress in our lives. Proactively addressing ways to increase resilience in your child’s life can dramatically affect their emotional well-being for the rest of their life. Having the ability to cope and communicate successfully, especially through traumatic or difficult situations, will set a child up for success long term.