Building Resilience in Children

Posted by Angie Balsley on 1/15/2021 7:00:00 AM

Much of 2020 was spent coping with the scary realities of the pandemic and racial injustices. As we lean forward into this new year, we focus on recovery for ourselves and our students. An important part of recovery is resilience, which is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. 

The article In a Time of Calamity, What Do Children Need From Us, Justin Minkle shared four things we can do to help children learn resilience. 

  1. Teach them to look for helpers. Looking for helpers allows kids to see that there is good in society to balance the bad. It also shows them that when horrible things happen, they don’t have to either look away or succumb to despair. 
  2. Teach them to be helpers. We can do this by providing kids concrete ways they can contribute to making things better. Acts of kindness often make us feel a greater sense of agency. Kids need that agency too.
  3. Listen. Give children an opportunity to bring up the questions weighing on their spirits. 
  4. Be there. Even if we don’t have the solutions, our presence can be powerfully reassuring. 

The authors of this study explain that resilience skills can be learned and strengthened. They suggest the following eight intervention strategies to build students’ resiliency skills. 

  1. Teach problem-solving skills
  2. Encourage children to express their feelings
  3. Engage in positive interactions
  4. Foster self-esteem through meaningful responsibilities
  5. Teach optimistic thinking and perspective taking
  6. Teach cognitive strategies such as thought stopping and changing channels
  7. Teach relaxation and self-control techniques
  8. Teach parents that the critical factors in fostering resilience  in children are warmth, limit setting, and consistency

In reviewing the resources I selected for this article, I reflected upon my own resiliency. While I identified with many of the strategies and influences, the three that I believe I’ve relied on most are seeking mentors, having confidence in my ability to make use of resources and opportunities, and viewing hardships as learning experiences.  2020 provided limitless “learning experiences.” In 2021, I’ll be connecting with my mentors and leveraging resources and opportunities to put into practice what I’ve learned. I ask that you teach children to do the same.


Dr. Angie Balsley, Executive Director