Building Resilience in Children: Teaching them to Overcome Challenges

Statistics show that 15% of young people aged 10-19 years experience mental health problems globally, making up 13% of the global burden affecting this age group. This is a worrying trend among young people who should be vibrant and energetic. 

Most mental health problems result from trauma, school stress, bullying, and worries about body image. Since such challenges are inevitable, parents must build resilience in young people to help them cope with stress and adversity in everyday life. 

Resilience allows them to overcome difficult experiences without developing negative emotions that leave them sinking into depression or hopelessness. So what is child resilience, and how can you build it? 

What is Child Resilience?

Child resilience is coping, adapting, and recovering from challenging situations. According to the American Psychology Association, resilience is an all-encompassing term involving the child’s emotional, mental, and social aspects.

This means a resilient child can control their emotions during difficult situations (emotional resilience), has the mental capacity to handle uncertainty and adversity, and can connect with others to solve problems affecting them and others.

When a child is resilient, they’re optimistic, pay attention to their well-being, can solve problems, and have active social support. Note that resilience isn’t an inborn trait but can be learned. Just as the brain responds to information around it, resilience can be modelled, taught, and nurtured regardless of age.  

Fostering strong support networks and communication to help children understand their feelings and how to feel better is critical to helping them become resilient. 

Role of Resilience in Children’s Mental Health

When children realize they can’t control everything in life, they can quickly process challenging situations and find solutions. Resilient children recover from hardship, building their confidence and ability to handle situations out of their control. 

Lack of resilience can cause a child to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms like avoidance or isolation that progress into adulthood. 

The child also becomes susceptible to mental health problems like depression, anxiety, panic attacks, anger, and suicidal thoughts when overwhelmed. Parents should endeavour to equip their children with the emotional and social tools to build resilience.

How to Build Resilience in Children

Children develop resilience over time through experience. However, parents can cultivate this trait by: 

Create Time for Your Child

Although juggling work, family, and social life is challenging, parents must create time to spend with their children. Resilience results from building solid relationships with children. Knowing that they can rely on a supportive parent, family friend, teacher, or relative during difficult times motivates them to be strong.  

Note that it’s not about the amount of time you spend with the child but the quality. An hour of focused attention is better than spending a day with your mind scattered. You want to make every minute count. Encourage them to express themselves and listen to them while at it. 

Develop a Routine

Routines cultivate structure in kids, which is critical for their well-being. They also create a sense of comfort in difficult times. It would help to work with them when developing the routine, making time for work, play, connection, snack times, etc.

You want to follow it religiously while allowing flexibility, especially in periods of distress or transition, to make it easy for kids to adjust. Changing routines to allow them to adjust builds their resilience. 

Avoid Solving Problems for Your Child

Building resilience involves allowing your child to make mistakes and learn from them. As such, you must avoid solving every minor problem. For example, if they didn’t get what they desired for their birthday, it would help to talk about how it makes them feel instead of fixing the problem. 

Train them to Delay Gratification

One of the most important lessons about resilience is delayed gratification. Kids must understand that they can’t always have what they want. Studies show that one’s ability to delay gratification enables one to give greater importance to investment rather than the reward. 

The inability to defer pleasure and reward later makes kids lose a critical aspect of their well-being. You can prepare them for delayed gratification by teaching them how to play a musical instrument, a sport, or playing board games. 

These activities require impulse control, mental flexibility, turn-taking, and exercising the critical parts of the brain responsible for developing resilience. 

Bring Things to Perspective and Keep Hopeful

Kids can be closed-minded when facing challenging situations, often due to lack of experience. Helping them see a broader perspective about the situation keeps them hopeful about the future. They develop an optimistic view about the existing condition and the strength to keep going even during challenging times. 

Help Kids Manage Strong Emotions

Many parents dictate how their kids should feel, talk, or act. This can be counterproductive as their minds will be conditioned to think or act in a specific way, oblivious to their feelings. The best way to build resilience in children is to allow them to think, work, or feel independently. Your role is to help them identify their feelings and manage them.

Help them Develop a Positive Self-view

Helping your child remember past hardships and how they handled them encourages them to navigate future challenges. It’s also a great way to boost their confidence when solving problems. Also, it helps them see how their achievements contribute to the well-being of their friends, classmates, or family. 

Help them Accept Change

Kids can find change scary, especially when it impacts their lives. Helping them embrace and see change as a normal part of life builds resilience. Encourage them to examine what is essential and their goals and develop a plan of action for what isn’t going well. 

Also, it is necessary to point out changes they have experienced while transitioning to different grades and discuss how they have affected their life.

Find a Role Model

Sometimes, kids build resilience by interacting with people who have gone through similar experiences. For example, your child may find it challenging to transition to a single-parent household after their parents have divorced or separated. Finding an older friend with a similar experience can help your child transition quickly.


Resilience is critical to navigating everyday life. As such, parents must find ways to cultivate this trait. The points discussed above can help kids develop resilience but parents must remember that this is a personal journey. Thus, what works for one child might not be effective for another.

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