7 Ways to Help Teens Build Resilience

When teens are bullied, rejected by peers, or experience a breakup, their emotional and psychological health can suffer. Imagine having to go to school and face peers, who once were your friends, and who are now spreading rumors about you to the rest of the class. Or imagine finding out that a close friend of yours committed suicide, or that your best friend turned girlfriend has decided to break it off.

The point is that life for teens is often in turmoil. Unlike most adults whose lives are fairly steady, life can be tumultuous for teens. Adolescents are in a life stage that includes a great deal of change, such as physical, emotional, social, and psychological growth. This alone can contribute to stress, confusion, troubling events, and even trauma. To help teens bounce back, this article will include 7 ways in which parents can their teen build resilience.

Resiliency Defined

Resiliency is the ability to get back up when you’ve been knocked down. One online dictionary defines it as the ability to recover from illness, depression, adversity, or other similar conditions. You could describe resiliency as a general life buoyancy. The following are traits that seem to characterize resiliency:

  • adapting to change easily
  • feeling in control of your life
  • bouncing back after a hardship or illness
  • having close, dependable relationships
  • remaining optimistic and not giving up, even when things seem hopeless
  • having the ability to think clearly and logically under pressure
  • seeing the humor in situations, even when under stress
  • having self-confidence and feeling strong as a person
  • believing things happen for a reason
  • knowing how to handle uncertainty or unpleasant feelings
  • knowing where to turn for help
  • liking challenges and feeling comfortable taking the lead

As you can imagine, depending on their temperament, history, and optimism, some teens may not have a great deal of optimism. In fact, research indicates that there are certain factors that can help make someone more resilient. These include:

  • a positive attitude
  • level of optimism
  • the ability to regulate emotions
  • the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback

With this in mind, parents can help their teen build resilience. With a few techniques and tools, parents can help teens feel stronger and more confidence, even when life gets rough.

Helping Your Teen Build Resilience

To help your teen strengthen and build resilience, parents might consider the following suggestions. In fact, Bonnie Benard and other researchers of resiliency agree that there are certain elements that can help foster the development of healthy resiliency in teens.

  1. Help your teen find a supportive community. One of the most important aspects of a community is the support that members show for one another. Feeling welcome among a group of people versus feeling judged by peers can be an incredibly powerful force for resiliency. Your teen might join a church group, an after school program, or a sports team.
  2. Praise your teen on their strengths and abilities. Helping your teen feel confident will help them face adversity. If a teen never receives praise, they may begin to believe what bullying peers tell them or that the tragedy they just experienced was meant for them. Teens who feel good about themselves have a greater ability to bounce back.
  3. Help your teen achieve their dreams. Another way to build self-confidence, and in turn resilience, is to support a teen in reaching their goals. When a teen is able to get on the sports team they wanted or win an award at school, it helps them feel good, and any teasing by peers bounces off them more easily.
  4. Encourage your teen to be a part of change. If your teen is struggling with an issue, rather than let it bring them down, teens can take action about the problem. For instance, one teen continued to feel rejected by her peers because no one wanted to sit with her at lunch. Finally, she created an app called Sit with Us designed to help teens find others to sit with during lunchtime.
  5. Get to know your teen’s triggers. Sometimes, teens need help with knowing their vulnerabilities. If a parent begins to notice that their teen comes home from soccer practice in a sullen mood, perhaps there’s something about practice that’s bugging them. Paying attention to your teen’s triggers can help you find ways to support them and boost their self-confidence.
  6. Know when to bring up hot topics. Another way you can support your teen’s confidence is by broaching hard topics with ease. Instead of asking them the moment they get home about the bullying or issue they’re facing, wait until the right time. Teens may need emotionally safety before talking about issues that are challenging. If parents ask at the wrong time, teens might blow it off or say that they don’t want to talk. However, if parents can be sensitive enough to find the right time and the right way to bring up certain topics, then teens may feel more comfortable talking.
  7. Help your teen pick a mantra. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, people are encouraged to identify their negative thoughts and replace it with a more positive one. In the same vein, teens can choose a positive statement, such as “I am loveable” or “I am a good friend” when faced with adversity that might trigger negative thoughts and feelings. For instance, if a teen doesn’t get picked for the football team and all of his friends have, it might lead a teen to think they’re not good enough or strong enough. To avoid going down a spiral of negative thinking, parents can encourage their teen to pick a set of words that helps them feel good about themselves.

According to research, the above factors can help teens build resilience. Over time, a healthy, strong, and gentle resiliency can grow, which can support a teen’s emotional and psychological wellbeing.

Further Reading