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A parent's guide: How to build resilience in teens

Problems, failures and setbacks are all a part of life, but they can be tricky for teens to navigate during their high school years. Thankfully, your teen has you to help equip them with the tools they need to develop resilience and bounce back in the face of adversity.

Armed with these seven tips, your teen will be fully prepared to overcome any obstacles that arise, including those that may seem insurmountable.  

1. Work on your connection.  

Your child’s network of family, friends and community is so important, as it’s where they’ll turn for support when they need it. Work to build a strong emotional connection with your child by spending one-on-one time with them whenever you can. Encourage them to open up to you or those within their circle, to express their own opinions, ask questions and listen to answers. The more they learn that a problem shared is a problem halved, the better equipped they’ll be to overcome the things life throws at them.  

2. Inspire healthy risk-taking.  

What’s a healthy risk? Well, it’s something that will push your child outside of their comfort zone with fewer consequences than an average risk, resulting in little to no negative impact if they are unsuccessful. Things like trying a new sport or hobby, signing up for a course, attending an event or enlisting a mentor are examples of healthy risks that can benefit them in the future. Learning to embrace these risks will help them challenge themselves now and for the rest of their lives.  

3. Promote problem solving. 

Problem solving is a core skill not only in the modern workplace, but in life. Resist the urge to solve your child’s problems for them, and instead, ask questions that put the onus back on them. This will help them think through their issue, and more often than not, come up with the solution on their own. If they’re feeling stuck, brainstorm solutions with them but let them take the lead.  

4. Encourage emotions. 

When stress strikes or your child faces failure, they may experience intense emotions – coupled with teenage hormones, and this can often result in a lot of feelings! However, there’s nothing at all wrong with this. In fact, learning to feel their feelings, label their emotions and express why they’re feeling a certain way will help them make sense of what they’re experiencing.  

5. Calm them with coping skills. 

We all have coping mechanisms, some healthier than others. As a parent, it’s up to you to teach them how to process their emotions and handle situations healthily by modelling positive examples. Conduct deep breathing exercises, meditate or count down to show your teen how you calm yourself, and encourage them to do the same, either on their own or with you as a guide. This may also include going outside for fresh air or stepping away from a situation. There are lots of positive ways to cope with tough situations, and once they’ve learned them, they’ll be able to pull them out of their back pocket whenever they’re going through something difficult.   

6. See the silver linings.  

Teach your child to reframe their thoughts and see the silver linings in a situation. This may be something you can do through the way you speak about situations – for example, when something is going wrong, can you actively reframe it in conversation so they know that there are positives? If your child is naturally a pessimist, don’t be discouraged – optimism and gratitude can be nurtured.   

7. Lead by example. 

The best way to teach behaviours is to model them. When you next encounter a setback or challenge, or feel stressed, be open with your teen and show them how you can affectively work to overcome these problems. Better yet, take the pressure off yourself and your child and learn these attitudes together.  

Resilience is a learned behaviour that we cultivate over the course of our lives, but the better versed your child is with this in high school and beyond, the easier it will be for them to recover from tough times. Take it easy on them (and yourself!) and work towards small steps that will improve their resilience in the long run.  

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