Raising Resilient Children and Teens

If we want our children to experience the world as fully as possible—unfortunately with some of its pain, and thankfully with all its joy—our goal for them is resilience. Resilience is the capacity to rise above difficult circumstances. It is the trait that allows us to move forward with optimism and confidence even in the midst of adversity.


  • Notice and reinforce children’s Competence
    • Build Confidence in children
    • Foster the vital Connection between parents and children
    • Develop Character and a sense of Contribution in children
    • Develop critical Coping strategies that will help children thrive even through difficult times
    • Help children and teens gain Control by learning that the privileges they earn are linked to the responsibility they demonstrate.


  • Competence is the ability or “know-how” to handle real-life situations effectively.  It is acquired through actual experience, not from watching someone else do it for you.  It is the set of skills that allows people to trust their own judgments, make responsible choices, and face difficult situations.
  • We foster resilience when we allow children to solve real problems by themselves, rather than overly protecting them from every potential consequence.




  • This is not the warm and fuzzy self-esteem that supposedly results from telling kids they’re special or precious.  It is the solid belief in one’s own abilities, rooted in their own competenciesConfidence
  • Children gain confidence from accomplishments achieved in real life tasks and challenges. 


  • Children with close ties to family, friends, school, and community are more likely to have a solid sense of security that produces good values.
  • Feeling grounded in this way may prevent them from using destructive behaviors as alternate ways to get  love or attention.



  • Character is the fundamental sense of right and wrong that helps ensure that children are prepared to make wise choices and which enables them to contribute to the world. 
    • Children with character enjoy a strong sense of self-worth and confidence.  They become more comfortable sticking to their own values and demonstrating caring attitudes toward others.


  • There is nothing more powerful than knowing the world is a better place because you are in it.
  • Using your own abilities to affect the lives of others in positive ways is the best medicine anyone can prescribe; it can be the best therapy for a wounded soul.
  • Surrounding children and teens with people who say “thank you” instead of condemning them helps them to rise to their highest potential.
  • Contribution helps children learn the ultimate act of resilience: the ability to turn to someone else and ask for help.


  • Real life is not all about being happy.  Life is about what’s hard, how you handle it, and how the people you keep around you help you handle it. 
  • Every time we use healthy coping behaviors instead of making self-destructive choices, we learn we can have some control over the stress in our lives or at least over how we choose to react to stress, further building confidence that we will be able to handle things that are hard in the future.


When adults teach children that the freedom and privileges they get are earned by the responsibilities they demonstrate, they learn that they are in control of what happens to them in life.
When you achieve the six C’s above—confidence, competence, connection, character, contribution, and coping—you learn that you are not a victim of other people or circumstances.  Resilient children, youth, and adults understand it is their own responsibility to make their lives the best they can be. 

Keys to Building Resilience

-- To be strong, children need unconditional love, absolute security, and a deep connection to at least one adult.
-- Children live up or down to our expectations of them.
-- Whether in routine situations or times of crisis, listening to children attentively is more important than any words we can say. 
-- Nothing we say is as important as what our children see us doing on a daily basis.
-- Sometimes the best thing we can do to help children become resilient is to get out of their way.