There are a number of factors that build resiliency in children, as different studies have found over the years. Youth who bounce back quickly after experiencing hardships tend to possess the traits and resources listed below. The more of these parents can develop in their children, the more resilient their kids will be:

How To Build Resiliency in Children

Traits in the child that promote resiliency:

  • Well-developed social skills
  • High measures of emotional intelligence
  • An ability to focus their attention and well-developed problem solving skills
  • Higher intelligence
  • A positive and well-grounded self-esteem
  • High degrees of social tolerance and patience towards others
  • Self-efficacy, or the belief that they have the skills to control or manage their problems

Measures of belief that promote resiliency:

  • Flexibility in beliefs and an ability to adopt multiple perspectives on life
  • A sense of purpose and hope in the future
  • A sense of personal responsibility over one’s actions and circumstance
  • A sense of control over their life and the ability to act independently
  • Possessing a clear coping strategy for dealing with setbacks that emphasizes positive, pro-social principles
  • An optimistic outlook towards life
  • The belief that change is a natural part of life; a challenge rather than a threat to their personal goals and wellbeing
  • The belief that outcomes are largely shaped by one’s own efforts

Personal resources and environmental measures that promote resiliency:

  • A healthy relationship with at least one parent or caretaker figure
  • Access to a network of close social support and personal confidants
  • Involvement in religious or civic activities
  • Special interests and hobbies to focus upon that allow a child a means of temporary escape
  • Exposure to adults who cope well with stress and who model productive coping strategies
  • Access to effective schools, good teachers and safe neighborhoods

Things that impede resiliency in kids

  • An overprotective environment or helicopter parenting. Overprotective parents foster dependency in their children while shielding them from chances to experience failure, which harms resiliency.
  • Maintaining a rigid belief structure or placing too much emphasis on ideals for “how life should be” or how people are supposed to behave.
  • Coping strategies that focus around anger, hatred, victimization, condemnation or punishment of others.

* General references for above information: Masten, 2004; Masten, Best & Garmezy, 1990; Rutter, 1990; Dohrenwend & Dohrenwend, 1981; Silk et al., 2007; Werner & Smith, 1992; Luthar, 1991; Weist et al., 1995)

Throughout the rest of this chapter, we explore some of these issues in greater detail, and follow with additional chapters highlighting ways parents can help develop these skills for resiliency in everyday life.