In the past few years, we have experienced many “once-in-a-lifetime" events that could lead to long-term impacts on our youth’s ability to overcome adversity.

Today’s children and adolescents have experienced:

  • The “traditional struggles” of youth while living in a digital world
  • Worldwide pandemic and stay-at-home orders
  • Increased safety risks due to crises (such as the youth fentanyl crisis)

As a parent myself, I can get overwhelmed thinking about helping my child navigate these life stressors while also cultivating an outlook of perseverance and resiliency.

But here’s a little reminder: our children are resilient.

For caregivers and helpers looking for actionable steps to help children manage adversity, take a deep breath, we’ve got you.

Three Simple Steps to Cultivating Resiliency with Your Child:

Icon of a Newton's Cradel balance pendulum with one of the balls in a heart shape

1. Encourage often, praise less.

I spend a lot of time teaching how to parent through a trauma-informed lens, parenting a child with anxiety, or supporting adolescents through their mental health struggles, not in spite of their mental health struggles. Encouragement over praise is about recognizing the effort that a youth puts forward and acknowledging that effort is just as important, if not more important, than the measure of accomplishment at the end. Praise looks like, “Wow, you got 100% on that exam, I’m so proud of you!” Encouragement looks like, “I saw how hard you studied for that exam and the focus you put towards doing your best.” This subtle shift in language decreases anxiety and shame by emphasizing the effort put forth toward the goal rather than the outcome.

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2. Value your child for what they bring to the table.

There are so many things that I love about working with adolescents and children, but one of the most rewarding things to witness is the strength, creativity, and resourcefulness that each child brings to their day-to-day lives. It is difficult to navigate a world that is full of the “shoulds” or “supposed tos” – especially if you already feel as though the cards are stacked against you. Think about how often we place expectations on our children because that is what society expects of them, not because that is what our children expect of themselves… When I pause to think about the “why” of our expectations, I often wonder, “Where did that goal even come from?” We have so many expectations for youth that they need to achieve to be considered successful. We expect our children to go to school and “succeed” - that means sitting still for hours at a time, never losing focus, always saying please and thank you, performing well on an exam, being great at athletics. It is even better if they can work a part-time job on top of that when they’re in high school! Okay, I’m being mostly dramatic but honestly, that’s how it feels to most of the youth in our society. Imagine how overwhelming and frustrating it is for a child who cannot fit into that box.

What if we shifted our focus from “societal expectations” of our children and instead acknowledged their out-of-the-box strengths? This can look like acknowledging the values of perseverance, creativity, and humor that our child brings to the table. Instead of focusing on areas of growth, we focus on the areas of strength to build self-esteem and confidence.

Icon of hugging hearts

3. Help your child to create a community.

The community that children create outside of the home is just as important as the community they feel within the home. The adage “it takes a village” exists for a reason. We can sometimes forget that the feelings of belonging and connectedness are just as important as more tangible needs such as food, shelter, education, etc... If you weren’t around, who would they go to for comfort? What are the things they like to do and are there others who help them to achieve those things?

To build their community, help your children:
• Identify the people they feel safe with
• Understand what their values are
• Find a space of belonging where they can honor those values
• Learn where they are welcomed and honored (and how to walk away if they are not!)

Let me be very clear, even if you do all these things perfectly, your child will still face some hard moments. Hard moments are part of being human. However, putting these steps into practice will help you and your child feel that they can handle these moments when they arise. Sometimes I need the reminder that children are resilient – we just provide an environment that allows that resiliency to flourish or to shrink. The best things we can do for our children are to talk to them, listen to them, and love them. To all the caregivers out there: they’re going to be okay. We just do the best we can, with what we’ve got.

Blog Contributor:

Sam Santy, LCSW

Program Director of Youth and Family In Home programs

Additional Resources

Visit or call 970.347.2120 to learn more.

Mom swinging with daughter

Other Resources

Youth Resilience series from Rocky Mountain PBS

Forward Together Colorado shares advice from experts – and the stories of real parents and teens – to help you start building better connections today

How to Talk to Your Child about Their Mental Health from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

How to Raise Resilient, Self-Reliant, and Secure Kids in an Age of Anxiety Podcast with Dr. Harold Koplewicz and Dr. Robyn Silverman

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