Home > Health Library > Helping Your Child Build Inner Strength
Inner strength, often called "resilience," is the ability to cope with the stressful situations that life throws at us.
Building inner strength begins with simple actions or thoughts that your child practices, such as planning for what to do next and learning to accept change. Inner strength can help a child face problems. Children who are resilient:
Children often surprise us with how resilient they are. But there is much you can do as a parent to help your young child or your teenager grow stronger.
By working to develop a child's inner strength, you are giving that child the emotional and mental tools needed to stay healthy and happy throughout life.
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Experts say that the single most important thing that gives children inner strength is having parents or other adults who are positive and nurturing.
Other things that help include:
The single most important thing you can do to help your children is to show that you love them no matter what.
Knowing that you are close by and available gives your children a sense of security. Although your children's world is expanding, you remain their primary influence.
Always remember that you are a role model. Your children learn by watching you. So be sure that your actions and behaviors teach them how to:
To build inner strength, children need to feel loved and safe. They need a family that is close, that spends regular time together, and that offers a safe haven as they grow.
Empathy is an important part of building inner strength. It means that a child can recognize and appreciate how others are feeling. It means that a child cares when others feel bad and that the child wants to help them.
You can help your child learn empathy by demonstrating it in your own life and talking with your child about it.
Helping others can help children learn that they have the power to make others feel better.
It often seems like teenagers never listen, but they do. That's why it's so important to remember that you are still the primary role model, even as your child grows older.
The single most important thing you can do to help your teen is to show that you love him or her no matter what.
Teenagers may be growing up, but they still need to:
Help your teen learn about
important issues and be prepared for increasing responsibilities. Give teens freedom to figure things out in their own way within the
boundaries you have set. Parents walk a fine line between respecting a teen's
need for independence and privacy and making sure that he or she does not make
Research shows that some children are more likely to have problems building inner strength. They may have risk factors, such as being in certain situations, having certain medical conditions, or having certain personalities, that make it harder for them to be resilient. But the more parents understand about these risk factors, the better they will be able to help their children learn how to cope.
Internal risk factors
Internal risk factors are part of a child's personality or health history. Examples include:
External risk factors
External risk factors are in the family, schools, and community. Examples include:
A counselor or therapist can help you and your child learn healthy ways to cope with stress.
Other Works Consulted
American Psychological Association (2011). Resilience Guide for Parents and Teachers. Available online: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/resilience.aspx#.
Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice, American Institutes for Research (2001). Promoting Resilience in Children: What Parents Can Do. Available online: http://cecp.air.org/familybriefs.
National Association of School Psychologists (2005). Promoting Resiliency in Your Child: A Tip Sheet for Parents. NASP Communique No. 34-3. Available online: http://www.nasponline.org/publications/cq/cq343resiliencytips.aspx.
December 9, 2011
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics & Catherine D. Serio, PhD - Behavioral Health
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