Building resilience in children and teens

5min read

Helping our children build resilience and confidence is one of the most important gifts we can give them. We all understand how life can bring you many challenges throughout and how important it is on how we manage this. Resilience is being able to manage stress, challenges, trauma or adversity that life brings and bounce back from it. When children and teens are resilient, they are going to be more confident, curious and adaptable to the world around them.

Key Points:

  • Help them build positive relationships with their friends and other adults
  • Help them learn to be independent in their actions and thoughts
  • Encourage them to understand, express and manage their emotions
  • Help them build their confidence by taking on challenges and allow them to learn from it even if they do not manage to complete the challenges

Setting personal goals and challenges

Encourage them to plan goals and challenges, which help to boost their self-esteem and confidence. Whether they accomplish them or not, it helps them learn about life in a wider sense. 

Invest in their self-esteem

Having a strong sense of self can help them build resilience against any forms of adversity in their lives. Encourage them to get to know who they are, what values they hold and help them take time out to work on themselves.

Encourage them to believe in themselves and their abilities

Help them put themselves first when they need to especially if they are in a stressful situation. Help them list all the things they are good at including being kind, helpful and loving and show them why these attributes are so essential in life. Thinking about their achievements no matter how big or small is great for their confidence. 

Encourage them to develop a strong offline social network

Help them build a support network of friends and loved ones who love them for who they are. Give them space to spend quality time with their network and do the things they love to do. This will promote happiness and kindness.

Embracing change

Making necessary changes in all areas of life is a constant thing to do. Even if change is hard to do, try to encourage them to do it, as things will and do change. It is better to be in front of it rather than behind.

Learn to problem solve

These are essential skills for all areas of life. Encourage them to learn problem-solving skills as that is key to building resilience. No matter what the situation or issue is, there is always a resolve from it, even if it means walking away from something that no longer serves you.

See the bigger picture

Encourage your child or teen to see the bigger picture when faced with adversity. Share your experiences with them so they can see you understand what they are going through. Let them know that everything has a process and sometimes we have to go through these things to come out the other end stronger.

Mind, body and soul

Helping them look after themselves is crucial. Not only is it important for them to eat healthy and enjoy treats in moderation, but being active is important too for both mind and body. Getting enough sleep and learning positive mindfulness is important barriers and defence structures for stress, trauma and adversity.

Value who they are

Children will only learn to value themselves if those around them first value them. Give them lots of positive encouragement and praise. This will give them the necessary springboard to take on challenges and boost their self-worth.

Emotional flooding

When a child is upset they can’t think straight or begin to sort out what they want to do – they are overwhelmed or ‘emotionally flooded’ If we think of emotions as water, when we are upset the thinking part of the mind becomes flooded. Listening gives our children a chance to express the feelings and gradually come back into a balanced state where they can start to think through the problem or let go of the feelings and move on. When we name their feelings and what they need, we are helping them understand their own feelings and needs rather than being led by them. Children who learn to handle their emotions tend to have better physical and emotional health, do better at school and get on better with friends. Let them know it is ok for them to seek help and support too if they need this. 


Sometimes, stress is inevitable. Help them create a stress-free zone and teach them this. Make yourself comfortable and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths and let them out slowly – feel yourself sink more deeply into your seat. Imagine yourself surrounded by a bubble that protects you. Be aware of all the outside things and people that make demands on your life. Now, as you breathe out, feel yourself gently making your bubble bigger, pushing back all these demands. All your worries can wait. Every time you breathe out, make your bubble a bit larger until you feel comfortable. Know that you can step out of the bubble whenever you need to, but for now just relax.  

Further resources

If you would like further support and advice, call our helpline on 0808 800 2222 or email us at You can talk to us online via our live chat service, which is open, Monday to Friday between 10.30am and 9pm. You may find it helps to find out how other parents and carers have coped with this on our online forums. We also have a range of free online parenting courses that can help through the ages and stages of parenting.