Steps To Help Your Child Develop Resilience

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated May 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
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Childhood may seem like a carefree time, but children can still face many challenges. Some of them, like schoolwork, tend to be typical parts of growing up. Still, kids can face more difficult problems as well, such as bullying, abuse, or troubles at home. Resilience can help children weather these challenges and manage their anxiety and stress, and it may help them as they grow into adolescents and adults as well. You can help your child cultivate resilience by encouraging them to accept change, maintaining a routine, and helping them keep things in perspective. For professional support and guidance in raising your child to be a resilient individual, consider reaching out to a licensed therapist in your local area or through an online therapy platform.

Resilience in childhood can last well into adulthood

What is resilience?

According to the American Psychological Association, resilience is “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.” These types of challenges tend to affect everyone differently. Some people may be more resilient than others by nature, but resilience may be something anyone can learn and develop. 

Factors involved in childhood resilience

One of the most common factors in resilient children may be a committed, stable, and supportive relationship with at least one adult, such as a parent or caregiver. These relationships can help children learn to monitor, adjust, and regulate their own behavior. 

Some children may be more innately resilient than others, but genetics is usually just one contributing factor. Children who do well during times of hardship often have some biological resilience, alongside strong relationships with the adults in their lives. The combination of these protective factors may build the child’s ability to cope. 

For the adults in their lives, it may be important to know that learning to cope with manageable stress is often a critical factor in developing childhood resilience. When kids are taught to manage everyday stressors, they usually learn skills that can help them better cope with more significant challenges. The skills needed to become resilient can be learned at any age. Still, children can be more adaptable than adults, so childhood can be an excellent time to start fostering resilience. 

Resilience by age

Children of any age can learn resilience, but it may be advisable to consider the typical stages of child development when teaching resilience skills. 

Preschool age

In preschool, many kids are learning to be more expressive, but they still may not know how to talk about the things that worry them. Kids this age might not understand the nuances of every situation, but they can pick up on the fear and anxiety of the adults around them through what they hear and observe. 

If you have a child this age, you may want to look for clues of fear and anxiety. Preschool kids may be unable to tell you how they feel, but there might be signs. For example, your child might be clingier, require more attention, experience developmental regressions, or become more irritable. Kids this age may also be able to better express themselves through imaginative play. If your family is going through a challenging period, consider spending more time with your preschooler. You might play games, read to them, cuddle them close, and make them feel safe.

Elementary school age

Elementary school children may become more independent, forming their own friend groups and establishing relationships with teachers and other adults outside of the home. At this age, children may need at least one place where they feel safe, ideally at home. 

Children this age may have questions about the challenges they experience. Consider answering them honestly and directly in a way they can understand. Reassure them that you are doing everything you can to keep them safe.

Kids this age can become interested in world events, such as war or politics, for example. You may not want to hide these things from them completely, but you might consider limiting what they watch on TV or online since they could misinterpret what they see or hear. Check in to see if they have any questions and to ensure they understand any current issues and events they’re exposed to. 

Middle school age

Middle school can be challenging for kids (and their parents) due to increased demands at school and within their peer groups. Children this age may still look to their parents for safety, but they might also start turning to teachers and friends for guidance.

At this age, parents can talk to their kids about their own feelings during times of extraordinary stress. These children may be old enough to be curious about how you handle challenging situations. Consider sharing with your kids how you cope and try to help them find coping mechanisms that work for them. 

High school age

It can be difficult to connect with your teen, especially in times of increased stress. Teenagers may be experiencing academic and social pressures, and they might better understand the stresses of the family and the world in general.

High school kids may not always want to talk about what is bothering them, though. If you’re trying to get them to open up, talking to them while doing something else can help. Being in the car or cleaning together, for example, could give them something else to focus on so that the conversation feels less awkward. Consider answering their questions honestly, but don’t forget to ask them how they feel and listen to what they have to say as well. 

You could also encourage your teen to take breaks from social media and the news when stressful things are happening in the world. It might also be helpful to talk about your own fears. They may prefer to spend time alone or with friends during challenging times, but it can still help to let them know you are there for them.


Developing resilience

Here are some strategies to help your child develop resilience.

Help them connect with others

Connecting and engaging with their peers may be essential to building resilience, and it can also help kids learn how to listen and be empathetic to others. You might suggest ways they can connect, whether via phone, text, or video chat. Joining an after-school group may be another option. Family time can also be important since it may remind your kids that they have strong familial support, which can foster a child’s resilience. 

Teach them how to challenge unrealistic thinking

It can be easy to let our thoughts get away from us during times of stress, and kids tend to be no different. Teaching your child how to focus on something they can control can help them manage difficult situations. This could mean taking action, such as turning off the TV or going for a walk. Other times, it might mean taking quiet time to work through their thoughts by drawing, journaling, or meditating.

Encourage them to accept change

Change tends to be a part of life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t scary. Help your kids examine what is going well, what isn’t, and what they can do to change their situation. By teaching them this skill to cope with everyday challenges, you can prepare them to handle more significant changes. 

Maintain a routine

Routine can be comforting to people of all ages, especially children. Consider collaborating with your kids to develop a daily routine, including time for both schoolwork and play. While consistency may be vital, it can also be important to practice flexibility when necessary. This combination of routine and flexibility can foster resiliency in more challenging times. 

Encourage self-care

Self-care can be an important part of good mental health, and learning self-care as a child might be the beginning of a lifelong habit. Encourage your child to take time for themself, whether that means spending quiet time alone doing something that they love or spending a day having fun with friends and family. Emphasize the importance of eating a nutritious diet and getting enough sleep and exercise. Perhaps one of the best ways to do this may be to model these behaviors yourself.

Help them with goal setting

Learning how to set reasonable goals and move toward them one step at a time can foster resilience. Teaching children how to keep moving forward through challenges may be essential to their resilience, and it’s generally something they can practice in their everyday lives. 

Help them view themselves positively

You can help your child learn self-efficacy by reminding them of challenges they have already overcome. Talk to them about the things they have dealt with before. This can help them understand that these experiences gave them the strength and skills to overcome current and future challenges.

Keep things in perspective

Some children may be too young to conceptualize how a stressful event might affect their lives in the long term. Even so, you can remind them that the current situation is temporary and that the future can still be bright. 

Resilience in childhood can last well into adulthood

Benefits of online therapy

Helping your child in times of distress can be challenging, especially if you’re experiencing stressors in your own life. If you need extra support or advice regarding how to talk to your child about self-regulation skills or developing resilience, online therapy can help. When you sign up for online therapy, you can usually be matched with a licensed professional within 48 hours. With online treatment, you can attend sessions from your own home or any location with an internet connection.

Effectiveness of online therapy

In general, online and in-person therapy tend to produce the same client outcomes. When it comes to online parenting interventions, a 2023 meta-analysis found that “online parent programs have positive effects on reducing emotional symptoms in children and adolescents.” If your child is struggling with resilience, online therapy may be an effective way to learn the parenting skills needed to help them thrive.


Children tend to build resilience in the same way adults do. The process can require a combination of family factors, environmental factors, and the child’s ability to learn new skills. There may be several ways to help your child develop resilience, such as helping them with goal setting, encouraging self-care, and teaching them to challenge unrealistic thoughts. If you need support as you encourage resilience in your child or help with managing challenges in your own life, consider reaching out to a licensed therapist online or in person.
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