Building Resilience in Children

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Building Resilience in Children

What is resilience?

Resilience can be defined as a person’s capacity to recover quickly from difficulties or challenging situations.  It plays an important role in minimising the effects of difficult situations that people experience and helps them overcome adversity.  It is about thriving in life, despite our circumstances.

Why is it important?

The World Health Organisation has predicted that depression will be the number one health issue in the world in 2020.  In Australia approximately 20% of young people will experience some form of mental disorder and depression is one of the most common.

Children who are not resilient have higher risks of mental health disorders and behavioural problems. There is also emerging evidence to suggest that young people who are resilient are more likely to achieve school success, both academically and personally.

Resilience is not something you have or don’t have it is more of a skill we can learn.  We can help children become more resilient so that they are more able to cope with life’s uncertainties and problems

Things that can negatively impact levels of resilience

School and education issues

  • Low academic achievement
  • Poor school attendance

Family factors

  • Low levels of family connectedness
  • Family violence
  • Maltreatment

Friendship issues

  • Having limited friendships
  • Being friends with high risk young people

Individual factors

  • Difficult temperament
  • Involved in risk taking behaviour
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Poor communication skills
  • Difficulties with problem solving

Characteristics of resilient children

Social competency

They are able to initiate and sustain close relationships, show empathy as well as having good communication and conflict resolution skills.  A sense of humour is also an attribute of resilience.

Problem-solving skills

The resilient child thinks creatively and flexibly about difficulties and is able to make plans to resolve problems and take the action required.


People who are resilient tend to be quite optimistic, they are able to see challenging situations in more positive terms and believe that they are able to deal with the difficult situations that life sometimes throws their way.

The International Resilience Project defined resilience within the following three domains:


  • People I trust and who love me no matter what
  • People who set limits for me so I am able to be safe
  • People who model resilience for me
  • People who encourage me to learn to do things for my self


  • Respectful of myself and others
  • Take responsibility for my actions


  • Talk to others when I have worries or concerns
  • Solve problems that I have
  • Have self-control when I need it

(Reproduced from Grotberg, E. (1995))

Building Resilience in Children

  • Help them to accept that negative events will happen in their life and assist them to manage their feelings in relation to those events
  • Teach them to set realistic and achievable goals so they are able to reach their own expectations
  • Encourage involvement with school, work and community so that they feel there is a place where they belong
  • Ask for their opinion so they can practice communicating their views
  • Encourage positive friendships with others to improve social skills
  • Teach them how to handle disagreements and interpersonal difficulties effectively
  • Set reasonable boundaries and expectations and be consistent if these are not adhered to
  • Provide opportunities for young people to challenge themselves
  • Increase independence and autonomy as they get older
  • Encourage decision making and problem solving

If you would like parenting assistance you can find out more about my work here >>


Grotberg, E. (1995). ‘A Guide to Promoting Resilience in Children: Strengthening the Human Spirit.’ Available at:

Grotberg, E. (1997). ‘The International Resilience Project: Findings from the Research and the Effectiveness of Interventions.’ in Bain, B, (Eds). Psychology and Education in the 21st Century: Proceedings of the 54th Annual Convention of the International Convention of Psychologists. Edmonton: ICPress. pp. 118-128. Available at:


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2018-01-30T14:23:58+10:00By |Anxiety, Children, Parenting|Comments Off on Building Resilience in Children

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Debbi Carberry Clinical Social Worker (AMHSW MAASW Acc)

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