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I came from a family who emphasized resilience.
My parents didn’t read parenting books, and they didn’t work with me on resilience activities. They modeled it.
Without explanation, I learned that our family value was hard work and endurance. My dad worked the night shift while my mom worked during the day, so the first memories I had was of them working hard to create a life for us.
If I could choose to give a child any character trait, it’d be resilience.
Resilience is a necessary ingredient in the healthy emotional development of any child. It’s the ability to bounce back and withstand significant adversity.
And here’s some good news: there are things we can do to foster resilience and grit.
You may not have heard of grit. You may not have even thought much about resilience, but I guarantee that you’ve been teaching your child to be resilient from the moment they began to walk.
How we behave around kids is one of the most impactful ways we can teach resilience. Through life’s ups and downs, our kids learn how to be resilient from us.
Here are 5 characteristics of a resilient child:
1.) Confidence and Competence
Resilient children are confident. They are hopeful and open to new experiences. They are willing to engage with new people and situations. Their confidence helps them feel emotionally safe enough to take risks and to not dwell on insecurities and the unknown.
Resilient kids are competent. They work hard at learning new things and developing their skills. They take pride in what they do well, especially when their efforts are praised by the adults around them.
Resilient children feel that they have a powerful say in how things unfold. They feel that their opinions and actions matter and impact how things turn out. They have a sense of agency.
Sidenote: The sense of agency is one of the most significant indicators of happy children.
Resilient kids are self-aware. They reflect on events in their life and can understand why things happened a certain way. They tend to be positive thinkers who see setbacks and failures as lessons they can learn from. They also tend to be more emotionally aware of themselves and others.
Sidenote: If you’re raising resilient daughters, know that certain times in a young girl’s life can lead to anxiety and self-doubt. Around the age before puberty, most girls experience a loss of confidence.
4.) Good Coping and Stress Management Skills
Kids who are resilient tend to have strong coping and stress management skills. They have the necessary skills to deal with setbacks in a way that prevents them from fearing future obstacles. They can handle their own emotions in a reasonable amount of time if they are no longer in a stressful situation.
Sometimes these skills are innate, but more often than not, these coping mechanisms are taught.
Techniques like deep breathing and emotional grounding techniques are invaluable to all kids because they make children less fearful. They can make kids feel more secure. These techniques also encourage self-awareness.
5.) Have a Resilient Parent
Resilient kids often have resilient parents.
Regardless of what they learn in school, kids tend to model themselves after their parents first. A resilient parent gives their kids blueprints of what to do when things are tough through their behavior.
Many of these blueprints and lessons resonate deeply with their children because these are real-life examples. They witness the emotional state of their parents while their parents undergo challenges.
Sidenote: Kids who develop resilience are also likely to have strong bonds with supportive parents or caregivers.
The single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult.
– Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University
Further Reading & Resources
There are workbooks that help kids with developing resilience, like Healthy Mindsets for Super Kids. This is best for kids 7 and older. It provides activities and lessons that are suitable for parents and teachers.
Another great workbook is Coping Skills for Kids Workbook. It teaches 75 coping strategies that are broken into four main categories. These are techniques that help your kids learn to manage stress and negative emotions.
For further understanding of resilience, you can take a look at Building Resilience in Children & Teens. It goes into detail about every kind of situation you can encounter as a parent and helps you better understand your child.
How to Teach Resilience in the Classroom & at Home
Real-Life Examples: From stories of public figures and athletes who overcame significant adversity, real-life examples are a great way to teach kids about being resilient.
If you’re a teacher, a good idea is to do a survey and have kids share stories of a person they admire.
Literature: My favorite way to teach resilience is through stories. The immersive component of stories and novels make them second only to real-life examples and experiences.
For young readers, award-winning Rosie Revere, Engineer, is excellent for championing perseverance and STEM at the same time. This one will bring a tear to your eye. The great thing about storybooks like this is that they combine multiple lessons about life together into one story.
For middle-school to high-school aged children, a classic novel like Hatchet, about a boy who has to learn to survive in the wilderness is ideal. The antagonist is the environment. The main character has no choice but to persevere. This book is gripping from start to finish.
For older readers who are more advanced, a dystopian novel like The Handmaid’s Tale can be fantastic. Please note that Margaret Atwood’s novel can be too mature for some high school readers, but I have found success in doing this novel with kids who are 15+. My students loved discussing symbolism and the gender roles in the novel. It’s not for every child, but rewarding for readers who enjoy a challenge.
Comments, suggestions? Let me know below!