Building Resilience in Childhood


Resilience is an essential quality that helps everyone handle the ups and downs of life. Children and young adults are often expected to be resilient or ‘bounce back from adversity. However, it isn’t always that simple; being strong and resilient is not about ‘getting over’ a traumatic event but about the ability to cope with it in the aftermath. It is a skill that can be learned and developed to allow young people to handle everything that life throws at them.

What Is Resilience?

Resilience is the ability to get through stressful or traumatic events and deal with the effects appropriately. It can mean either growing and flourishing in the aftermath or simply being able to manage life.

Children and young adults have many opportunities to develop resilience, from dealing with their changing bodies to challenging situations at school or home. A good support system is one of the most influential factors in developing resilience. Other factors integral to resilience include taking pride in your image, maintaining a positive attitude, and having good communication skills.

Resilience can seem unattainable for children who have been through traumatic events or continue to live through abuse or neglect. Those affected by poverty, discrimination and loneliness may also find it hard to manage stress and build up their resilience.

However, trauma survivors are more resilient than they often give themselves credit for. Invalidating their ability to cope with traumatic events can severely damage their mental health and even contribute to a lack of resilience.

Increased resilience has many benefits, including:

  • Lower risk of unhealthy or risky behaviours
  • Higher achievement at school
  • Better mental well-being
  • Improved recovery from illness

Improving Resilience in Schools

Several studies have focused on improving children’s resilience in schools to promote personal well-being. One study in Denny, Scotland, included initiatives that promoted confidence and understanding amongst staff and teachers. It raised awareness of resilience among parents through workshops to help support their children transitioning from primary to secondary school.

An evaluation found that these initiatives improved children’s emotional resilience and reduced their worries about changing schools. Parents were also more confident in their abilities to support their children.[1]

The Seven C’s

The seven C’s are a set of characteristics necessary for developing, maintaining, and enhancing resilience in young people:

  • Confidence – being confident in handling difficult situations and finding solutions.
  • Competence – feeling competent in ability boosts young people’s self-esteem, encouraging achievement and success.
  • Connection – supportive relationships and a strong community give young adults a sense of belonging and connection for people to lean on during overwhelming periods.
  • Character – developing a strong sense of character ties into confidence and control, allowing people to follow their beliefs.
  • Contribution – offering something to others helps people develop gratitude and foster a more positive attitude.
  • Coping – developing healthy, effective coping strategies, such as seeking support from trusted adults and managing stress, helps young people navigate difficult situations and improves their resilience.
  • Control – being in control of your actions to make the right choices when times get tough.

The more young adults and children can develop these characteristics, the greater  emotional strength they can build to manage their challenges.

Strategies for Building Resilience

There are many ways that children and young people can foster resilience and develop healthy coping skills. Being resilient isn’t a genetic trait – everyone can learn new skills to handle stressful times:

  • Practice positive self-talk – sometimes young people can struggle to see the positives amongst all the stress they face. Incorporating positive self-talk into their life and catching any negative thoughts that appear throughout the day can make young adults more positive about themselves and their ability to overcome challenges. Positivity also makes young people want to explore and do enjoyable things, cultivating a positive cycle of personal growth.[2]
  • Focus on well-being – good mental well-being starts with good physical well-being. Developing resilience is much easier when young people get enough quality sleep, drink plenty of water throughout the day, and spend time with their friends and peers.
  • Make a plan – young people are often highly stressed due to school, extracurricular activities, and other commitments. A plan can help them manage this stress and build their resilience by setting aside time for homework and relaxation. This could involve making a list of everything they need to achieve during the day while remembering to schedule breaks to avoid burnout and anxiety.

Parents also play a significant role in fostering resilience in their children. A good family dynamic boosts children’s resilience and encourages stronger bonds to be made in other settings. One programme that partnered with Middlesex University found that parents who supported their children’s education reported reduced family conflict and an increase in good parent-child relationships.

Whether facing a changing family dynamic or school-related problems, the more resilient young people are, the better they can cope with life’s challenges. Like any other skill, young adults and children can learn to become more resilient. However, resilience may not always be enough to cope with traumatic events – in which case, professional treatment might be required.

If you have a client or know of someone struggling with anything you have read in this blog, reach out to us at Khiron Clinics. We believe that we can improve therapeutic outcomes and avoid misdiagnosis by providing an effective residential programme and outpatient therapies addressing underlying psychological trauma. Allow us to help you find the path to realistic, long-lasting recovery. For more information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).


[1] Scottish Development Centre for Mental Health YM. Building emotional resilience in denny schools (BERDS): A pilot intervention. Evaluation report. Edinburgh: Scottish Government, 2009.

[2] Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). The broaden–and–build theory of positive emotions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 359(1449), 1367-1377. doi:10.1098/rstb.2004.1512

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