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It is normal to worry about your child, especially about how they might cope with the struggles that lie ahead for them. Even without the facets of anxiety, depression, or other overwhelming mental health struggles, life can be plenty challenging in its own right – and for children transitioning into adolescence, or from adolescence into adulthood, change and the anxieties surrounding it might be a daily aspect of life. 

The Importance of Building Resilience in Children and Teens

What is resilience? Mental resilience is fostered through a sense of self-confidence, as well as a sense of competence in the face of uncertainty. You can never prepare your child for every outcome, and you can never know what lies ahead. But you can help your teen be more confident in their choices, learn to develop independence, and foster the right emotional toolset to cope with hardship. 

Why does this matter? First and foremost, it’s about recognizing and dealing with the impact of stress in our teen’s lives, as well as taking charge of the way we as adults cope with stress in our own lives. It’s important to be cognizant of how your behaviors affect your children, and how you model stress management and healthy coping skills for your teens. 

Whether or not your teen is at an increased risk for anxiety, depression, or may have had past experiences with trauma or violence, it’s also important to remember that we can’t control or predict the future and have no way of knowing what’s coming our way. Building mental resilience helps children and teens prepare by having a stronger buffer against unknown stressors. But how do we do that? 

Steps to Building Resilience

It wasn’t too long ago that physical punishments, reprimands, and stoicism were valid ways to teach children how to cope with hardship. Yet none of these are very good at achieving anything, aside from perpetuating trauma and violence within a family. Research shows us that true mental resilience is achieved through feeling positively connected to your caregivers and peers, following a routine, and developing a stable relationship with at least one caring adult. 

Focus on Coping Skills

Life is full of problems. Instead of feeling overwhelmed or powerless before all the different ways life can get in the way of things, it’s important to help children and teens develop a positive attitude towards problem-solving, as well as healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress and frustration, such as self-calming skills (breathing techniques, taking a walk, talking to a friend, spending time with a pet) and positive brainstorming instead of negative rumination. 

Fostering Competence and Independence

In addition to helping teens focus on a positive attitude in the face of stress, it’s important to nurture their interests and skill-building. Encourage them to try out a variety of things, pick up new hobbies and interests, and instill important life-long habits, such as cooking, household tasks, taking up more responsibilities around the home or at school, using a routine to create better time management skills, and so on. 

Encouraging Healthier Thinking Patterns

It’s easy to get lost in despair when things are not going well – especially in recent times, whether due to the recession or the pandemic. Instead of dwelling on the negatives, work with your teens to focus on the positives. Encourage them to exercise control wherever they can, such as taking the time out of their schedule to maintain a hobby for their own sanity, taking breaks from school work to move around or play, or spending time with friends. 

Whenever your teen spirals into negative thoughts, pull them back and ask them to remember a time when things were easier – and help them convince themselves that things will be easier again. 

Modeling Healthy Coping Skills for Your Children

Children and teens react negatively to hypocrisy, and it’s difficult for your lessons to land if they’re being contradicted, as per the age-old “do as I say, not as I do”. Set cues for your kids as best you can by improving your own stress management and coping skills, taking time out to focus on your interests from time to time, and sticking to a routine to give your teens a sense of consistency, even in hard times. 

Frequently Asked Questions

We at Visions often hear questions from parents about building resilience in children and teens. It’s not always a straightforward process, and there can be hiccups. Some of the things parents often ask us include: 

Can trauma affect teen resilience?

Yes, it can. However, trauma is entirely subjective. Not all potentially traumatic experiences may lead to post-traumatic or acute stress. Trauma can still impact a teen’s resilience to other mental health issues, even if they do not qualify for a stress disorder. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your teen after a potentially traumatic experience and to talk to them frequently about how they’re feeling. 

Does social media and technology play a role in teen resilience?

Studies show a correlation between excessive screen time and lower self-esteem, as well as rates of anxiety and depression. However, it’s important to differentiate between cause and effect. Does this mean anxious teens are more likely to withdraw into a digital world, or that social media can make teens feel worse about themselves? In many cases, it may be a little bit of both. 

Are some teens inherently more resilient than others?

Sometimes, parents are worried that their teens’ insecurities are an innate trait, more than anything else. The truth is that all teens experience insecurity. Some teens may be more anxious about it than others, more or less confident by nature, and more or less resilient to stressors. But that does not mean that children and teens aren’t adaptable – in fact, they’re incredibly adaptable, and resilience can be taught. 

How can I tell if my teen’s resilience is an issue?

Self-esteem can be a good measure of a teen’s personal resilience. Positive, healthy self-esteem and signs of self-confidence often mean that a teen is coping well with their daily stressors. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to talk to your teen about how they’re feeling, and ask them questions related to their mental health, such as whether they sometimes get sad for no reason. 

Creating a healthy home environment and investing in both your mental wellbeing and that of your children is important. However, parents are not always equipped to help their teens in cases of serious mental anguish. If your teen has been struggling, and you aren’t sure what to do, then contact us at Visions Adolescent Treatment for help. We can walk you through our teen residential treatment programs, and provide a better insight into how your teen is doing. 


Building resilience in children and teens can set them up for the future by allowing them to foster healthier coping skills, accepting life’s uncertainties, and equipping them with positive thinking patterns. More so than tough love or childhood hardships, focusing on your teen’s personal abilities, interpersonal skills, and self-confidence can prepare them for anything they might face. Learn more about teen resilience, fostering adolescent coping skills, and teen mental health at Visions. 

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