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Resiliency in Children

Resiliency is defined as managing to become personally and professionally successful despite severe adversity in one's life.  While we marvel that some people overcome seemingly overwhelming childhood adversity, resiliency is a normal trait that comes from inborn tendencies to adapt. If a child's natural tendencies to adapt are appropriate, then that child can overcome even the most severe adversity. If not, problems can occur with their ability to cope with that situation.

Since some form of adversity is inevitable at some point in one's lifetime, approaches and habits that increase resiliency can and should be fostered in all children. These can be from attitudes and emotions, feelings of self-competence, social competence, and physical health. Home and school are the main environments that contribute to resiliency in children. Some people are naturally more resilient than others since birth. Children who are easy going, comfortable around others, and good problem solvers are thought to be naturally more resilient. However, even shy, anxious children can learn coping skills, and all children benefit from life experiences which build their confidence in themselves and their abilities.

The following suggestions can help parents and caregivers foster resiliency in their children:

  • Encourage your child to engage in physical activity such as exercise as often as possible. Exercise can relieve stress, decrease depression, and increase coordination and strength
  • Foster effective problem solving.  As parents, you can be tempted to solve problems for your children.  Allow your child to think situations through and try out solutions to problems themselves.  Praise their efforts when they succeed or help them to think of alternative solutions if their first efforts are not successful
  • Help your child get involved in activities that build skills, such as learning to play a musical instrument, craft projects, or art lessons. Interesting activities and challenging activities can also incrase a child's self-confidence
  • Encourage children to see problems within a larger context through modeling and questioning.  Children need to be made aware of other perspectives when problems arise.  Ask them how they have solved similar problems in the past, and share with them similar situations and how you handled them.  Express confidence in their ability to handle the situation and "bounce back"
  • Encourage children to discuss their feelings and listen in a nonjudgmental way.  Being able to vent freely without criticism is often all anyone needs in order to cope more effectively.  Be careful not to criticize your child for feeling the way that they do, even if you do not feel that it is the best way to cope with the situation.  See this as an opportunity to work through the problem together to show them that yu care and want them to feel better
  • Motivate children to develop supportive relationships with positive and caring adults. Studies show that the presence of even one positive adult figure can make a big difference in the life of a child
  • Encourage their resilience by demonstrating the behaviors, skills, and strategies that help you bounce back from tough times


Smith-Harvey, Virginia (2004). Resiliency: Strategies for Parents and Educators.  NASP publication retrived from

Streit, Jane, Ph.D. (2006).  Fostering Resiliency in Children.  Florida Department of Children and Families publication retrived from