A young person’s world can be shaken by any number of difficult life issues, from the real shaking of an earthquake, to illness and injury, a bereavement, parental break up, bullying, crime, or broken relationships. It’s all about how to move forward from the issue. Here’s 15 key factors to building teen resilience.

Whatever’s happened in your teenager’s life parents, you can play a key role in building resilience in them to help them move forward.

Resilience helps your teen to ‘bounce back’ faster, and to cope better with the next inevitable hic-up of life! In fact, each life ‘issue’ that we experience, deal with, and learn from helps us grow into stronger people.

Waiho i te toipoto, kaua i te toiroa.

Let us keep close together, not wide apart (Maori proverb or Whakataukī).

When your teen hits one of life’s speed-bumps, showing them kindness, caring, compassion and understanding is important, and so is teaching and modelling key life skills.

Research confirms there are key factors that adults can encourage in their teen’s life that will build their emotional resilience to life’s setbacks.

These factors can be taught to anyone – whatever their age. Everyone is different, of course, with differing strengths and weaknesses. So you may find that not all of these apply to your teen. But the more of these they can build up, the better:

15 key factors to building teen resilience

  1. Knowing it’s OK to ask for help and support in difficult times, and knowing who and how to ask.
  2. Having a support circle of positive relationships with supportive family, whanau, other caring adults, friends, and workmates around them.
  3. Having easy access to health and counselling support (including for mental health and/or addiction).
  4. Knowing others appreciate and care about them – having others believe in them and their potential.
  5. Feeling connected to their school – sensing they belong there and a willingness to be involved.
  6. Feeling connected to their community – sensing they belong there and a willingness to be involved.
  7. Having key life skills, including knowing how to problem solve, make choices and decisions, communicate well with others, set goals, find information, put positive values into action in their everyday life, resolve conflicts, know how to apologise and set things right, care for their day-to-day personal needs.
  8. Having a sense of self worth and self respect – believing they’re good at something and they have skills and abilities that have value in the world.
  9. Having respect for the worth and value of others – recognising everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and things to offer – having empathy and always considering others’ needs.
  10. Being flexible at times and able to adjust as situations change – realising that change and challenge are part of everyday life – a willingness to give things a go.
  11. Thinking creatively – willing to try some new things and look at things with fresh eyes, or from different angles.
  12. Persevering – willing to give things a go and to keep on trying, understanding that setbacks are part of the territory, and failure can be a real positive.
  13. Having a sense of humour – able to laugh at things, to see things in a different way and to relieve tension.
  14. Having a hopeful outlook – able to look to a more positive future – understanding things can and do get better – having cultural, faith and life beliefs that promote their own wellbeing – having a sense of purpose – having things to look forward to.
  15. Having anti-bullying policies and programmes used in their schools and workplaces – or in any group they’re involved in e.g. youth groups, teams, clubs.

Now take a moment to reflect

Developing a young person’s internal strength starts at home, with their family or those caring for them. Our young people watch us and learn from us adults. They learn from our words and our actions. And they learn a lot from what we don’t say and don’t do as well. Here’s some reflective thinking for you to consider. Take a moment, over a cuppa, or on your commute home from work tonight to think about this:

  • Think about how you learned to cope with tough times as a young person. What’s helped you the most since then? Who has cared for you and supported you?
  • Which of the 15 factors listed above can you see in your own life now? Are there any you could start working on yourself?
  • Think about your young person. Which of these 15 factors do you see in their lives? Which ones are missing, or need to be strengthened?
  • Think about some ways that you can help your young person to build up these factors in their lives, so they can better cope with life’s tough times. Don’t wait until they need them.
  • Get practical. They can’t be nagged into developing resilience skills. Model the practices above, guide where you can, push them a little, but not too much. Are there other adults who can help?
  • Young people need to learn these skills, which involves practice and gradual improvement – expect mistakes from time to time, they’re human, after all!

Kids may forget what you said,

but they will never forget how you made them feel.

The 15 key factors to building resilience in your teen above will really help. For more information on resilience in our kids, you should check out Kids being courageous; Teaching them to be resilient. And for more help with raising your teen, check out the great content in our Teens section.

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Tricia Hendry is well known for her writing, educational resources, presentations and media work, specialising in assisting all ages through life's toughest times. Tricia works closely with Skylight Trust - a national not for profit trust that enables children, young people, their family/whanau and friends to navigate through times of trauma, loss and grief.

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