Five Ways Grown-Ups Can Help Kids Become Resilient

African American FamilySome children struggle with stresses or challenges in their lives. They may have difficulty solving problems, display concerning behaviors or react to situations with strong emotions. Other children who face similar challenges may be able to handle difficult situations. They control their feelings and behaviors, persist in solving problems and overcome obstacles. These children display resilience or the capacity to recover from difficulties.

Anna Hickey, PhD, LCP, with The Children’s MOSAIC Project, a program of Mental Health Centers of Central Illinois, shares five ways adults can use resilience strategies with children.    

1. Build relationships. Youth who have a positive relationship with at least one trusted, caring adult are at lower risk for developing problems later on. Take the time to listen, engage in activities with them and show that you care.

2. Teach self-regulation Youth who can monitor and manage their emotions and behaviors tend to get in less trouble and show fewer emotional problems, such as depression or anxiety, later in life. Teach children to recognize different feelings and the situations that provoke them. Then practice with them other options for coping with and expressing their emotions.

3. Promote problem solving. We want to help children find the answers when they encounter a problem. However, if we always give children the answers, they may fail to develop their own problem-solving skills.

4. Set challenging but realistic goals. Low expectations can lead children to believe they are not capable of more. Many eventually fall into a self-fulfilling prophecy and act in ways that were expected. If we help children set goals that are more challenging, we encourage greater effort and success.

5. Provide a healthy environment. Brain development, emotions and physical health are all related. Children need to eat nutritious food, get enough sleep and receive regular medical and dental care. Families whose resources limit their ability to offer these things to their children need to be connected with community resources that can help them.