10 ways to help children develop resilience


Parents often ask me, “How can I help my child to become more resilient?” Given that life is full of obstacles and challenges, teaching children to be resilient is important.

Emotional resilience is the ability to bounce back after an unexpected setback. Resilience allows us to move forward even when things don’t work out as planned.

Feelings like disappointment and frustration are normal and natural in the face of adversity. The ability to be resilient allows one to view a setback as an opportunity, whereas the absence of resilience may result in the same event being seen as a avalanche that one can’t overcome.

Why are some of us better than others at dealing with setbacks? What does it take to be truly emotionally and cognitively resilient?

Simply put, resilience is present under two conditions. First, resilience requires the ability to see the cup as half-full; so seeing what’s going well, instead of what’s not, is imperative. Second, resilience requires that one moves from an emotional reaction to a problem-solving mode. Problem-solving requires perspective. Problem-solvers are able to think beyond themselves and to think abstractly in order to see beyond the immediate and into the future, even during times of stress.

Some people may have temperaments that are more prone to resilience than others; children, however, can learn to be resilient with coaching and by watching their parents model resilience. Here are 10 ways to promote resilience in yourselves and those you love:


1. Think positively. Viewing life as positive despite the ups and downs is an essential component of resilience. Negative events occur much less often than positive ones, and yet negative thinkers don’t see it that way — they see life as half-empty. People who are focused more on accomplishment than failure recover from losses and setbacks with greater ease than those who think negatively, avoid obstacles, are risk-averse and who worry about potential failures.

2. Be action-oriented. Individuals who are action-oriented manage their fears and negativity, and are able to engender positive thoughts even under stress. Procrastinators become overwhelmed and ruminative when experiencing stress. By definition, those who choose inaction and indecision are less resilient.

3. Broaden self-definition. The more central the loss or setback is to self-image, the greater one feels the setback. In other words, don’t put your entire self-image in one role. If you only see yourself as a tennis player, then a loss will hit you harder than someone who has a more expansive self-image and who values their contributions as a friend, son, worker, artist, etc., as well as a tennis player.

4. Maintain perspective. Perspective involves the ability to put our challenges in the context of our overall life. It means not taking one event too hard or seriously. It allows us to maintain hope, even after a disappointment. Every mistake or loss is a learning moment and one that can build character and strength.

5. Access resources. The resilient person does not attempt to do it all by themselves and instead, they ask for help when they need it. Asking for help is not the same as complaining. Habitual complainers dwell on what’s wrong. Successful people assume responsibility for finding the support they need to solve the problem.

6. Believe in self. Believe in yourself and engage in activities that promote high self-worth and rejuvenation of positivity. For some, this means prioritizing exercise, for others, it’s yoga, spirituality or meditation or being with loved ones. During times of setback, remind yourself of all you are and all you have to offer, and have compassion for yourself.

7. Never give up. The bravest, most committed and resilient people endure regardless of their obstacles and prior defeats. Pursue your goals with passion and purpose, and enjoy the process of reaching goals without focusing on the outcome.

8. Be flexible. Keep an open mind and don’t be rigid about the path required to be successful. You may reach your goals by following an unexpected path.

9. Be self-aware. Denial is not an effective long-term coping strategy. Self-awareness allows us to know what we need and when it’s time to reach out for support. The self-aware are good at listening to the subtle cues their body and their mood send, and finding ways to problem-solve when their needs are not being met.

10. Practice acceptance. Resilient people understand that pain and suffering are part of life. The best way to cope with suffering is to accept it. Acceptance is not about giving up and letting the pain take over; it’s about allowing yourself to fully experience all aspects of life, including suffering and pain, knowing that it will pass and that you will experience joy again.


This article was originally published in the Gloucester Times: http://www.gloucestertimes.com/news/living/ways-to-help-children-develop-resilience/article_01f62252-9b1b-5c07-91d9-77746ba96e1e.html

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