10 Tips for Building Resilient Kids

A list of 10 ideas to help your child become more resilient. By family therapist, author and internationally recognized expert on resilience among youth and families, Michael Ungar, Ph.D.

    1. RELATIONSHIPS: Encourage a child to make a strong connection with at least one caring adult role model, other than his or her parent.


    1. CONTROL: There are lots of important decisions children can make at every stage of their development. Be sure to give them the chance to feel what it’s like to make decisions they’re ready to make, and experience the consequences.


    1. EXPECTATIONS: Children need to know that they are expected to do their best, whatever that best is. A child who doesn’t believe anyone cares how well she does is a child who will feel lost and alone.


    1. IDENTITY: Give children genuine opportunities to show others what makes them unique. Avoid superficial pats on the back that even the child knows mean nothing.


  1. SAFETY & SUPPORT: No matter how chaotic life gets, remember children cope best when they feel safe, secure and certain about their next meal. Eat together at least three times a week.<a

  2. CONTRIBUTION: Offer children a chance to make a contribution to their communities. Volunteer activities ensure a child sees herself as competent, while gathering around her peers and adults who will see her as someone special.
  3. BELONGING: The best way to make a child feel he belongs is to give him a chance to show he has a place in your family. Have a family pet? Get your seven- year-old to see that it gets fed and groomed. Teens can cook dinner once a week. And a young child can, with supervision, help bathe the new baby.
  4. CULTURE: Offer children knowledge of their ancestors, and a sense of pride in where they come from will follow. The best way to help a child feel this pride is for him to share who he is with others. Let him bring a favourite family food to the next school class party, do something traditional for a birthday celebration, or invite his friends to a cultural event.
  5. ACCEPTANCE: There are few things children crave more than acceptance. It’s the foundation for attachment. Let the child know he’s welcome in your family, at his school, and in his community. Even problem behaviours are often a cry for help. Accept that the child is trying, as best he can, to get what he needs. You don’t have to accept the specific problem behaviour to still accept the child as someone worthy of your love.
  6. SOCIAL JUSTICE: Teach children to stand up for their rights. If there is a battle your child can fight for herself, coach her on how to argue respectfully for her rights.
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