Kids and Resilience

A white tween girl sitting on the kitchen counter mixing pancake batter

By Dr. Larntip Sutthirat

Picture a child dealing with a tough challenge—perhaps maltreatment, a social setback at school, or a family crisis. In moments like these, what sets apart those who crumble under pressure from those who emerge stronger than ever? The answer lies in resilience—being able to bounce back and thrive in the face of adversity. Resilience isn't just a trait; it's a skill that can be nurtured from a young age, laying the foundation for a lifetime of strength and well-being. Let's explore how resilience helps kids overcome tough times.


In today's complex world, children encounter various stressors that can impact their development. Resilience, defined as the ability to bounce back from adversity, plays a crucial role in helping children navigate through difficult times. Understanding resilience involves recognizing a child's capacity to manage stress, overcome setbacks, and interact positively with others while maintaining self-respect.

Recognizing resilience-lacking behavior

Children with lower resilience may exhibit counterproductive behaviors, such as avoiding tasks, cheating, clowning around, or bullying. They may deny responsibility, rationalize their actions, or blame others for their shortcomings. Examples include giving up prematurely to avoid failure, avoiding challenges due to fear, or cheating on tests. Some may cope by acting silly, trying to control others, or downplaying the importance of tasks they’ve been given.

Exploring the components of resilience

Resilience is influenced by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Individual factors such as a sense of meaningful purpose, cognitive competence, positive self-perception, problem-solving skills, and self-regulation play significant roles. Extrinsic factors like positive parenting and social support from communities, schools, and peers are crucial for children facing adversity. 


A safe, stable, and nurturing relationship, even if only with one parent, is important for kids to feel secure when they are growing up. Moreover, it helps if adults have realistic expectations of children and involve kids in things that matter to them. This reinforces the positive influences that build a child’s resilience. Communities can also help by offering after-school programs and access to quality childcare and education, which can decrease the effects of stress on children who lack supportive caregiver relationships at home.

Building a meaningful sense of contribution

One effective strategy for fostering resilience in children is by providing them with opportunities for responsibility and contribution. For instance, assigning tasks such as an eight-year-old washing their own socks or a four-year-old making their own bed not only teaches them self-help skills but also reinforces the idea that they are capable and valued members of the household. Schools can do something similar—getting children in grade 8 to help younger kids cross the road, for example, can enhance their sense of purpose and contribution.

Promoting problem-solving and decision-making

Encouraging problem-solving skills and decision-making abilities empowers children to navigate challenges effectively. Caregivers can achieve this by offering opportunities for decision-making and problem-solving early on. Involving children in choices such as meal planning or room decoration enhances their autonomy. Educators can implement student-led projects where children choose topics, plan activities, and present findings, cultivating decision-making skills and instilling a sense of ownership.

Encouraging a growth mindset 

Promoting a growth mindset helps children understand that mistakes are opportunities for learning and growth. Adults can help by normalizing mistakes as part of the learning process and encouraging kids to see them as opportunities for growth, for instance, by teaching them to say "I can't do it yet, but I'll keep trying" rather than "I can't do it". Through praising effort and perseverance over innate talent, adults empower children to embrace challenges, learn from setbacks, and develop the confidence to persist in the face of adversity.

Boosting positive self-perception 

Acknowledging children's efforts and achievements is crucial for boosting their self-worth. Simple acts of encouragement and positive reinforcement from adults help children develop confidence and self-esteem, contributing to their resilience. For example, sending a thoughtful note after a test or having a bedtime chat about their school day are small gestures that can make children feel great about themselves.


Building resilience in children is a multifaceted process that requires support from caregivers, educators, and communities. By fostering a positive and supportive environment, promoting responsibility, enhancing problem-solving skills, boosting self-worth, and encouraging a growth mindset, adults can empower children to navigate life's challenges with strength, confidence, and resilience. Ultimately, investing in the resilience of children today ensures their ability to thrive and succeed in the face of adversity tomorrow.


Photos from Canva.


Augustyn, M. & Zuckerman, B. (2018) Zuckerman Parker Handbook of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics for Primary Care. Wolters Kluwer.

Feldman, H.M. et al. (Eds.) (2022) Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics E-Book. Elsevier Health Sciences.

Jiang, Y., Harrison, S.E., & Li, X. (2022) Resilience-Based Intervention to Promote Mental and Behavioral Health in Children. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 69(4):795–805.

Voigt, R.G., Macias, M.M., Myers, S.M., & Tapia, C.D. (Eds.) (2018) Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics (2nd Edition). American Academy of Pediatrics.

About the Author

Dr. Larntip Sutthirat is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital. Inspired by her loving family, she advocates positive child nurturing. She specializes in assisting parents with managing children's undesired behaviors. Surrounded by lovely Japanese patients, she is enjoying learning Japanese.