What is Resiliency and How do We Cultivate it in Children?

Tammy Auten-Dye | November 6, 2020

“Active resilience happens when people who are vulnerable find resources to cope with stress and bounce back, and do so in a way that leaves them stronger, ready to handle additional stress, in more adaptative ways.” – Huda Aki

We all face challenges in life and when difficult situations, thoughts, emotions, or feelings pop up, we need to find resources to help us bounce back and overcome the obstacles in our way. Nurturing resilience in our children will help them be equipped to cope with, adapt to, and have the courage to persevere through tough times.

When difficult experiences pop up, our bodies stress response becomes activated by the amygdala, which plays a key role in regulating emotions, like fear and anxiety. Stress can also temporarily shut down the prefrontal cortex which helps with our ability to make decisions and think logically. So, what is resiliency?  Resiliency is the ability to activate the prefrontal cortex and calm the amygdala. When this happens, we are able to reverse, expand, adapt, or find a solution to the stressor. All children have different levels of resilience and have different ways of responding and coping to stressful times. When children cannot cope with a situation, they may become angry, shut down, become defiant, withdraw, or become emotional. It is tempting to shield or protect our children from adversities, but a little bit of stress can help our children to build skills that will help them to grow up to be healthy adults.

We can nurture resiliency in our children by supporting them in building skills and develop coping mechanisms to conquer the hard stuff. So, when challenges, difficulties, and change occur for our children there are six roots of resiliency that will help them flourish and positively respond to adversity.

Up to the age of seven we are like sponges and we absorb everything around us. As parents and caregivers, we often convey our values non-verbally, therefore it is important to be mindful of our value set and what values we instill in our children at a young age. Teaching our children values and creating purpose in their lives help them become resilient and enables them to persevere when challenges arise.

Support gives our children greater determination to persist and is integral to wellbeingSocial support has been related to higher positive emotions, higher self-esteem, motivation, and optimism. When our children feel listened to and cared for they are better equipped to deal with stress. Who are you to your child?

Self-Belief is having the confidence and trust in one’s abilities. Encouraging our children to take safe risks helps our children explore and express themselves. With risks, comes failure, which gives the child the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and not be afraid of failing. Nurturing courage in our children to take risks supports them to think about their decisions, teaches them to cope with something if it goes wrong, and ultimately helps them realise their capacity to shape their world. It gives them the ability to positivity manage whatever comes their way.

Flexibility, Adaptability, Curiosity
Teaching our children to think, feel, and behave in a flexible and adaptive manner when they are faced with stress, challenges, or change can allow them to see opportunities to find solutions to problems. Also sparking curiosity in our children can help them process and learn new and challenging things more readily. 

Growth Mindset
People have the potential to change. Teaching our children that our abilities are not fixed but can be developed with effort allows them to grow from their mistakes and to be proactive. We can start developing a growth mindset in our children by giving process praise, talking about the brain, accepting mistakes as learning opportunities, and understanding the role of emotions in learning.

Emotional Literacy
Supporting our children to manage their emotions and thoughts positively helps them build perspective and see problems as they are. Encouraging our children to engage in mindfulness activities builds emotional literacy and results in creating a resilient child.

Developing the roots of resiliency, not only rewards our children but also ourselves of psychological and physical well-being, positivity, balance, authenticity, motivation, and growth.  

Above all else, showing unconditional love and positive regard to our children is the most important thing you can give to them to build resiliency.


Tammy Auten-Dye, M.Ed., Registered Psychologist
Speaker for the 2020 November Online Children’s Mental Health Conference


Join us for our upcoming annual Children’s Mental Health Conference via online format airing November 20-22, 2020!

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