What is resilience?
Resilience is the ability to ‘bounce back’ during or after difficult times and get back to feeling as good as before.
It’s also the ability to adapt to difficult circumstances that you can’t change and keep on thriving. In fact, when you’re resilient, you can often learn from difficult situations.
Your child’s resilience can go up and down at different times. And your child might be better at bouncing back from some challenges than others.
All teenagers can build resilience, by developing:
- personal attitudes like self-respect and self-compassion
- social skills
- positive thinking habits
- skills for getting things done.
Your support is also a key building block for your child’s resilience.
You can’t always stop your child from experiencing problems or tough times. But you can play a big role in helping your child build resilience. Your child can also gain strength from other supportive adults, like grandparents, aunts, uncles or teachers. Friends and classmates can be great sources of support too.
Why pre-teens and teenagers need resilience
All pre-teens and teenagers face everyday challenges like arguments with friends, disappointing test results or sporting losses. Your child needs resilience to bounce back and learn from these challenges.
Some young people face more serious challenges like family breakdown, family illness or death, or bullying. And some have more challenges than others because of disability, learning difficulties or disorders, mental health issues, chronic health conditions and so on. Resilience will help them with these challenges.
Resilience is more than just coping. When you’re resilient, you’re more prepared to seek new ways to overcome your challenges and achieve your goals. Although this might mean taking some risks, it also creates opportunities for growth and greater self-confidence.
Personal attitudes for resilience
Self-respect and self-compassion are great building blocks for resilience.
Self-respect grows out of setting standards for behaviour. If your child has self-respect, your child believes that they matter and should be treated respectfully by others. Your child is also more likely to protect themselves by avoiding risky behaviour and situations. A strong sense of self-respect will also help your child be less vulnerable to bullies and bullying.
Self-compassion is being kind to yourself even when things don’t happen the way you expect. It’s important for resilience because it helps teenagers deal more positively with failures, mistakes, setbacks and other tough times. For example, if your child isn’t picked for a sports team, they might feel disappointed. But with self-compassion, your child might be able to say to themselves, ‘It’s OK, I’ve tried my best’ or ‘I’ll keep practising and try again’.
Empathy, respect for others, kindness, fairness, honesty and cooperation are also linked to resilience. This includes showing care and concern for people who need support, accepting people’s differences, being friendly, not mistreating or bullying others, and taking responsibility for your actions.
If your child shows these attitudes and behaviour towards others, they’re more likely to get a positive response in return. This helps your child feel good about themselves.
Having a strong, loving relationship with you and staying connected with you are the basis for all these qualities and values in your child. If you show your child love and respect, they’ll be more likely to care for themselves and others.
Social skills for resilience
Social skills are another important building block for resilience. They include skills for making and keeping friends, sorting out conflict, and working well in teams or groups.
When your child has good relationships at school and gets involved in community groups, sports teams or arts activities, they have more chances to develop connections and a sense of belonging.
These social connections also mean that your child will probably have more people they trust when they want to talk about things that worry or upset them.
You might like to read more about teenage friendships and how to support them. Our articles on keeping teenagers active, finding extracurricular activities and getting teenagers into community activity also have a lot of ideas to help your child make social connections.
Positive thinking habits for resilience
Resilience is about being realistic, thinking rationally, looking on the bright side, finding the positives, expecting things to go well and moving forward, even when things seem bad. By helping your child practise positive thinking habits and strategies, you can help them build resilience too.
Here are some ideas.
When your child is upset, you can help them keep things in perspective by focusing on facts and reality. For example, you could try gently asking, ‘I know you must be feeling disappointed, but does this really matter as much as you think it does? On a scale from 1-10, how bad is it really?’
You can also help your child understand that a bad thing in one part of their life doesn’t mean everything is bad. For example, if your child gets a poor exam result, you could point out that it won’t stop them from playing weekend sport or going out with friends.
Working with your child on problem-solving strategies can help your child feel they have the power to deal with difficult situations and get through challenging times.
It’s also important for your child to feel, talk through and calm down after difficult emotions like anxiety, fear and anger. Working through difficult emotions will help your child realise that these feelings don’t last forever.
And it’s good for your child to have simple strategies for turning low moods into better ones. Here are some ideas:
- Do things you enjoy or that help you relax, like watching something funny on YouTube or reading a good book.
- Spend time with friends or support people.
- Do something kind for someone else – for example, carrying the grocery shopping in from the car.
- Do some physical activity, like playing sport or going for a vigorous walk.
You’re a role model for your child. Let your child see and hear you being positive and optimistic. You can do this by thanking other people for their support, saying ‘Things will get better soon and I can cope with this’, and expecting that good things are possible.
Skills for getting things done
Feeling confident, capable and ready to get things done are big parts of resilience. Important skills in this area are goal-setting, planning, being organised and self-disciplined, being prepared to work hard and being resourceful.
You can foster these skills in your child by helping your child work out their specific strengths. Then you can encourage your child to set goals that put their strengths into action, and that help your child to focus on what they’re good at.
For example, if your child is good at singing or music, you could suggest they join the school band, or even start their own band. If your child is good with young children, you could suggest they look into some babysitting work or coaching junior sport.
Supporting your child to take on new or extra responsibilities is a great way to build your child’s confidence and sense of what they can do. Examples might be a leadership role at school or a part-time job as they get older.
Challenges are a normal part of life, and young people have to learn to cope with them by themselves. Let your child have a go at sorting out their own problems before you step in. Making mistakes is part of the learning process.