How Teens Can Become Resilient

Why do people react so differently to challenges? When faced with a life-altering crisis, some people collapse into depressive slumps or temper tantrums, while others seem to grin and bear it. Resiliency – the ability to recover quickly from misfortune or cope with stress in a positive way – is not only a very desired trait among people, it also results in greater levels of success. It’s clearly a trait that parents would love to see in themselves, as well as their teen. Some people seem to have a more natural tendency to be resilient, but anyone can develop this ability. So, challenge your teen (and yourself) to use the following guidelines to increase their resiliency:

Emotional Awareness

Understand what you are feeling and why. To become resilient when facing a problem, you must first identify your emotions and what is causing those feelings.  When individuals feel overwhelmed by their emotions, they can become paralyzed and fearful.  However, if you know why you are feeling upset, you will have gained valuable information about what needs to change in your life. Sometimes it is very obvious as to why you are feeling a particular way, while other times you may need to dig a little deeper.  Some people find journaling to be an effective way of becoming more emotionally aware.


Optimism gets a bad rap.  Many people say that being optimistic isn’t realistic or that optimists ignore their problems.  In truth, optimists see the positives in most situations, view life’s hardships as challenges to overcome, and believe in their own strength to get through difficulties.  They understand that setbacks are temporary. They will respond by evaluating the situation and developing an action plan instead of sinking into feelings of self-pity, blame, or fear. Optimists tend to develop a positive “self-talk.” They remind themselves that they have the skills to overcome their challenges and realize they will gain wisdom as they handle life’s bumps in the road. In other words, they see the same problem that everyone else sees, but they choose to view it from a positive light.

Social Support

Studies consistently show that individuals with strong networks of social support tend to stay healthier and happier throughout their lives. While simply talking about a problem with a friend or loved one will not make your difficulties disappear, it does provide several benefits. Friends can offer support, positive feedback and even possible solutions to your problems, or just be there to listen. This type of sharing can help lighten the load.

Sense of Humor

Individuals with a good sense of humor about life are less stressed. Studies show that having a smile on your face can release endorphins, which make you feel happier. When you’re in the middle of a difficult situation, it can seem overwhelming. If you try to see your situation as an observer would, it’s often easier to recognize what’s funny. Clearly, the situation may not be funny in any way, but trying to find the humor in tough times can help reduce the stress level.


Exercise has numerous benefits ranging from helping you lose weight, toning your body, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Amazingly, it has also been correlated with stronger levels of resilience. Perhaps this is due to the physical health benefits an individual receives when they exercise, or perhaps their confidence increases as they feel better about their body. Alternatively, it could be due to the effects of endorphins on one’s mood – exercise can decrease ‘stress hormones’ and increase endorphins, which give your mood a natural boost. Either way, research suggests those who get more exercise become less affected by the stress they face.


Resilient people are persistent and determined. Just like an exercise program, the most successful individuals are those who maintain the effort for the long term. Don’t give up on your situation. Remind yourself of your strengths and accomplishments and how you overcame other obstacles in your life, and then keep working through your difficulty.

Problem-Solving Skills

Resilient people show good judgment, responsible planning, and thoughtful consideration of the problem. The key is to practice problem-solving skills on a regular basis so that when a serious challenge emerges you will be better prepared. Whenever you encounter a new challenge, don’t become paralyzed no matter how daunting the crisis seems. Resilient people assess the situation, develop a list of potential ways to solve the problem, and then set realistic goals, using ‘baby steps” to achieve them.  Experiment with different strategies and focus on developing a logical way to work through common problems. You can read our previous blog “Bullying and Problem Solving” to gain an in-depth process on developing problem-solving skills in teens.

Final Thoughts….

It’s important to find a way to stop and take a deep breath during a difficult situation.  It will force you to think through a problem rather than jumping to the wrong conclusion, misinterpreting your feelings, making an inappropriate decision, or acting in a way that you may later regret.  By trying to slow down during a stressful situation, you will be able to make a conscious, rationale decision as to what you should do to solve your problem.  Whether the problem is a life-altering crisis or just a minor stressful situation, these skills can help you get through it – one day a time.

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