6 Things to Do to Raise Resilient Kids

One constant in life is that it brings challenges. Even in the past two years during the pandemic, our children have faced so many changes with schools closing/reopening, quarantining, and more. But with each challenge is an opportunity to become resilient. Resiliency is the ability to cope, recover, or adjust when things change or go wrong. It can also be described as how one bounces back after facing a challenge or a difficult situation. Here, we share six things to do to raise kids who can pick themselves back up when they fall.

1. Establish a positive, supportive relationship with your child

According to Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, “The single most common factor of children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult.” A child’s deep connection with parents or another adult can foster a feeling of belonging that helps children feel safe and protected. So, when children face adversity or change, they not only feel supported but also know that they are not going through the problem alone. Connection and engagement with peers are also important for children, especially listening to others and having empathy.

2. Develop a daily routine

Also be aware that kids might need to take a break even when it’s not on the schedule. Daily routines are comforting to children, especially younger children who yearn for structure. According to the American Psychological Association, “Particularly during times of distress or transition, you might need to be flexible with some routines. At the same time, schedules and consistency are important to maintain.”

3. Teach your child the importance of self-care

This can be as basic as eating healthy foods, exercising, and getting sufficient sleep. Make sure they have fun participating in activities that they love. Taking care of oneself builds confidence and competence and can help children better deal in times of stress.

4. Encourage self-awareness and self-worth

Children need to feel confident in themselves and their ability to problem solve in difficult situations. It can be helpful to teach your children to learn what they can and can’t control (i.e., you can control your response to a problem, but not how other people choose to act). Also be aware of what your child is exposed to through news, school, other people that may be triggering emotions or unrealistic expectations.  

Build your child’s confidence. Dr. Laura Markham of Aha! Parenting encourages parents to empower children with the word, “Yet.” According to Markham, when your child gets frustrated at failure or not being good at something, you can make statements like:

  • You’re just not as good at that as you want to be YET. 
  • You don’t know how to do that YET. 
  • You’ve learned lots of hard things so far in your life, and your brain is always excited to learn more. It just hasn’t learned that YET. 
  • You haven’t figured out how to succeed at that YET, but you will if you keep trying.

5. Introduce coping and self-regulation skills

Learning how to deal with failure or change in a positive way is what makes children resilient. Children who have a large variety of coping skills (whether social or stress reduction) are able to cope more effectively and are better prepared to face life’s challenges.

Social-Emotional and Stress-Reduction Skills

  • Label feelings: Teach children emotion words (like mad, nervous, excited) so they can verbalize what they are feeling. 
  • Practice breathing exercises: Taking a few deep breaths can help children relax and focus on the situation. 
  • Model positive self-talk: Stressful situations often lead to negative self-talk. Teach your kids to speak about themselves in a kind way. 
  • Take a break: Sometimes kids need to take a break and engage in another activity—try reading a book, yoga, playing music, and other calming activities.

Problem-Solving Skills

  • Ask for help: Always encourage your kids to ask for help when they are struggling with something. 
  • Practice problem solving: Brainstorm or write down a few possible solutions to the problem you’re dealing with.

Make a list: When facing a decision, it can be helpful to make a list of pros and cons with your children.

6. Help your children contribute to the world by serving others.

In Psychology Today, Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg writes, “Young people who understand the importance of service gain a sense of purpose that can build their own resilience and further their own success.” When your child contributes to society, they learn to see beyond their own needs and desires. When children serve others, they often receive positive feedback and appreciation for their efforts, which helps protect them from negative influences.