On Your Health

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Tips for Raising Resilient Children and Teens

Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from difficulties – the capacity to successfully adapt to a challenging life experience. The American Psychological Association suggests that resilient people use mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility to adjust to external and internal demands. To a certain degree, the ways we view and engage with the world are hard-wired – but not completely. A naturally timid person may never take up sky diving as a hobby, but he or she can shape the way they approach the world, in ways that make them more confident and better able to withstand life’s curveballs big and small. To quote Erik Vance in his September 2021 New York Times article on raising resilient children, “It’s a psychological principle blending optimism, flexibility, problem-solving and motivation.”   

At no time in recent history has resilience – emotional, mental and physical - been more important than it has in the last couple of years. Many of us got a crash course in being resilient, even if not by choice. During less intense times, we can foster resilience in ourselves and our kids in a consistent way, which will give them a deep well of resilience competency to draw upon when needed. That’s actually the good news. Resilience can be fostered and developed at any age. Here are some ways to do that.

For kids of any age, modeling or projecting resilience is a good way to teach. For example, imagine you’re in an airplane, stuck in the middle seat, and it gets pretty turbulent. The person on your right is freaking out. The person on your left is, too. The flight attendants, however, are calmly (at least on the outside) handing out snacks. They’re showing you how to stay calm. How to be resilient through this nerve-wracking situation.

Fostering resilience in teens

For teens, fostering resilience looks a little different. Some techniques you can encourage or remind them to use. Maybe even tape them to the fridge:

Cut ourselves some slack. When something disruptive happens in life, the stresses associated with that disruptive event leak over into daily stresses, making them seem worse. Teens already have roller-coaster emotions thanks to hormones and such, so it may take less to tip them into feeling overwhelmed. But since we understand this possibility, we can proactively prepare for tough situations and be ready to go a little easier on ourselves, and our loved ones or friends.

Talk. With anyone you are comfortable with: friends, teachers, counselors, siblings, grandparents, pastors or even…parents. Especially parents. They may seem old, but they were young once, too, and they’re concerned about you. Ask them questions, listen and share your opinions.    

Help someone else. There’s no better antidote to taking your mind off what’s troubling you than helping a fellow human being. It’s easy to find ways to help if you look. Volunteer at your school, help someone with their homework, clean up around the house or find a community organization to lend your talents to.

Also, take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat good-for-you foods that you enjoy, make sure to take mental breaks, stay hydrated. Go for a walk. In times of stress, it’s helpful to keep the physical plant, AKA your body, in healthy, tip-top condition.

Make a plan and stick to it. During a majorly stressful time, map out a daily schedule and then…follow it. For teens who have recently started high school or college, a whole world of new choices has opened up. Let your routines keep you grounded and calm. Maybe it’s calling a friend each evening or stopping for a pastry before class. Routines are calming, so create one that works for you. 

Fostering resilience in younger children

Remember that children face stress, too. Maybe we look back at childhood through rose-colored glasses, but it’s not always a carefree walk in the park. New classrooms, adapting to online school, struggles with siblings, bullying or academic challenges can all take a toll on a child’s psyche. Don’t shrug off your child’s concerns. Listen actively, with empathy.

Navigate small challenges together. Let’s say your son comes home from school with an F on a spelling test. You know for a fact he did not prepare for it. You could explain that laziness is at the crux of this F, but a better direction would be to emphasize cause and effect. The cause of him being unprepared was that he did not study enough. Next time, for a different outcome, he can choose a different approach.

Keep the focus on a positive self-view. Help your child remember that she has successfully handled tough times in the past. Explain that each previous challenge has built strength, making them better able to handle today’s challenge. Encourage your child to feel confident that they are able to solve problems and make good decisions.

Help them accept – and even embrace- change. Understanding that change is a part of life can make it seem less scary. New goals can replace old goals. After kindergarten, they’ll ‘level up’ to first grade. Baby teeth fall out, but big teeth come in. Change is also something we can create. If a school subject is not going as well as we would like, we can make a plan to change it.

Be consistent. A consistently nurturing parent or adult help a child feel secure and feeling secure can help children roll with changes or unexpected situations. Work with your young ones to create a routine. Decide which times are for schoolwork, and which times are for relaxing or playing.

Recognize moments of self-discovery. Tougher times are when people (including children!) can learn a great deal about themselves. Say things like “That hardship you just got through? It really showed us what you’re made of!”

No matter how resilient a person is, there can be times when it’s too much to handle alone. If your child is struggling, watch for signs of anxiety or depression. Don’t hesitate to talk with your child or teen’s pediatrician if you feel they aren’t themselves, or if a seemingly minor setback has really thrown them for a loop.


At INTEGRIS Health, we understand the importance of having a healthy mind, and we offer services that will help you and your child move through the ups and downs of life. Our friendly and knowledgeable team is ready to help you schedule an appointment for our mental health and psychiatry services. We also have a quick and easy mental health screening that will help you determine whether or not a professional consultation will be beneficial for you. It’s completely confidential and you will remain anonymous. Learn more about our mental health services on our website.


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