4 Things to Remember When Helping Kids Foster Resiliency by Livy Andrus

POSTED BY on March 08, 2022

My mother and I often joke that when the going gets tough, the tough make lists. She taught me this skill to remind me what I have control over.

For many of us, the coping skills that we learned during childhood helped us cultivate resilience, which is the ability to overcome serious hardship. Resilient children are adaptive, self-efficient, and confident problem-solvers who, when they leave home, are ready to tackle the daily stresses of adult life.

Harvard researchers explain, “Science tells us that some children develop resilience…while others do not.” Whether children develop resilience or not depends largely on the type of environment they are raised in.[1] When parents or caretakers make it a priority to create an environment that fosters resilience, they set their children up for success by helping them develop their own arsenal of coping skills.

However, as with many things in the realm of child development, creating such an environment is usually easier said than done. To foster such an environment, here are four things that parents or caretakers can remember when trying to teach their children resiliency:


1. Remember that a sense of control fosters resilience

When parents create a “feeling of predictability and structure at home,” they teach their kids how to cope and adapt.[2] Maintaining consistent daily routines can help children understand that they are in control of their life, which can be very encouraging during times when life seems to spiral out of control. Depending on your schedule, establish consistent routines for when your child wakes up in the morning, returns from school in the afternoon, and goes to bed in the evening. Doing so can create a foundation your child can build upon for the rest of their lives.

2. Remember to allow children to experience some disappointment

Shielding children from all struggles robs them of the opportunity to practice their problem-solving skills. Parents who wish to teach their children resiliency might consider allowing them to cope with manageable struggles, which teaches them how to process their thoughts and emotions.[3] For example, if a toy breaks, the food they made wasn’t as good as they had hoped, or the kids at school are mean, consider asking them what they are going to do about it. Helping your child recognize that they can improve certain areas of their life will help them to cope with and overcome disappointment.

3. Remember to show your own resilience.

From an early age, children practice social referencing, which is when they learn to interpret unfamiliar events by observing their caregivers’ emotional reactions. Parents who acknowledge and handle their emotions in a healthy way,[4] even during times of stress, can demonstrate what it means to be resilient, providing an example for their children to reflect back on throughout their lives. Whenever you experience trial and are able to overcome, consider sharing these lessons in a developmentally appropriate way so your child knows that adults experience hard things, too. Once your child knows you are overcoming trial and challenge, they can follow in your footsteps.

4. Remember that all kids are not the same

Michael Ungar, an accomplished family therapist, suggests that parents and caretakers must adjust their resilience-building strategies according to the level of risk a child is exposed to. [5] These risks may include anything from everyday stressors, to mental health problems, to a difficult home environment. Parents and caretakers can determine how best to help their child by communicating with them regularly and adjusting their approach as needed.


Even if the road to resilience seems daunting, parents who have a desire to foster resiliency within their children are starting on the right path. Like my mother and her lists, every parent has resilience-building skills that they can offer their child. When children develop their own arsenal of coping skills, they can eventually become productive adults who contribute in meaningful ways to society.




Submitted by Livy Andrus for UPLIFT FAMILIES

[1] Resilience. (2020). Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. https://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/resilience/

 2 Chen, J., & Katzenstein, T. (2020). Parenting and fostering resilience through COVID-19. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/resilient-parenting/202007/parenting-and-fostering-resilience-through-covid-19-0

[3] Lockhart, A. (2020). 5 ways to help kids build resilience. PBS for Parents. https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/5-ways-to-help-kids-build-resilience

[4] Popek, E. (2018). To raise resilient kids, be a resilient parent. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/28/well/family/to-raise-resilient-kids-be-a-resilient-parent.html?auth=login-email&login=email

[5] Ungar, M. (2016). 4 ways to build resilience (All kids are not the same). Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/nurturing-resilience/201606/4-ways-build-resilience-all-kids-are-not-the-same?collection=1103525



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