Emotional Care, Resilience

Building Resilience

Contrary to the saying 'kids are naturally resilient,' for most kids, resilience is an emergent skill. It grows and develops over time and through ongoing effort. Families can be instrumental in this process. While resisting sustained or overwhelming discomfort (the stress zones), protecting children entirely from the challenge of being uncomfortable (safe zones) is antithetical to building resilience. Striving for the stretch zones in which kids are challenged but not overwhelmed is where learning happens.  This video explains more about the zones and how to help your child.  For more information Phyllis Fagell offers advice from experts in this article on parenting for resilience during the pandemic and Karen Young offers twenty activities for building resilience.


Families might celebrate the process of learning (trying something new, navigating a challenge, or engaging in a different way of thinking) more than the results. When navigating a challenge, you might work with your child to create a menu of options for addressing the problem. Encourage your child to pick one option from the menu, and then share whether or not it worked.  Repeat the process of choosing another option and sharing feedback as needed.  


Set up a time to check-in. This allows you to increase comfort with sharing progress and provides you an opportunity to hear updates.  When asking for feedback on a strategy's success, focus on small movements forward by asking questions such as 'Do you feel a little better, worse, or the same?' Then acknowledge your child's feelings, and highlight these steps forward as essential building blocks.  

Growing Resilience

  • Approach resilience as a skill to be developed.
  • Empower your child to try different strategies.
  • Ensure check-in points during which your child shares updates, progress and challenges. This allows you to help identify next steps.
  • Allow your child to be challenged while avoiding leaving them to resolve matters on their own.

Checklist for Parents and Caregivers 

  • Focus on small steps forward        
  • Build on previous successes    
  • Examine challenges        
  • Support your child in trying new things
  • Ask for help when needed
  • Create space for the appropriate level of challenge

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