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Resilience Helps Teens Thrive. Learn How To Build Resilient Teens

Article written by: Julie Reichenberger

There is no shortage of sources of stress and worry in our world today. Building resilience in teens can be a lifeline for developing healthy ways of coping with stress and relationships. 

For teens, fears of school shootings, pressure for high performance in school, social media engagement, and returning to life post-pandemic are added pressures to their formative years. 

Adolescent years are a time when teens navigate individuating from their family, seeking connection and inclusion with peers, exploring their identity and making decisions for their transition into young adulthood. 

Helping teens to learn how to be more resilient is a gift we can provide as parents, caregivers, and caring adults. Resilience can lead to increased self-esteem, strong problem-solving skills, and adaptive life skills.

Resilience is an essential skill for young people to thrive.

What Is Resilience?

Resilience is the ability to adapt to life’s circumstance, stress, and adversity in a healthy, appropriate way. It’s the ability to pick yourself up when you get knocked down. 

Resilience is the capacity to recovery quickly from difficulties or difficult situations. It is the ability to respond in healthy way of managing stress, seek help and resources as needed, and manage setbacks. 

Having resilience is a protective factor for young people.

It may reduce unhealthy risk-taking behaviors that can lead to more trouble and setbacks in life.

As teens build resilience they transition into becoming well adapted young adults.

Signs of Low Resilience in Teens

Image of a teen girl looking at the camera with friends busy behind her. Read More: “Signs Your Teen Might Be Struggling With Negative Body Image or Disordered Eating”

  • Struggle with mental health
  • Unhealthy behaviors like alcohol or drug use, self-harm, disordered eating
  • Lack of interest or motivation
  • Inability to manage anxiety and stress
  • Unregulated emotions – outbursts of anger or aggression, difficulty calming
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Bullying others
  • Struggles with socialization

It is important to note that signs of low resilience may also be signs of depression, anxiety, learning difference like ADHD, dyslexia or others, Autism, trauma or another concern needing attention and professional help. If your teen is displaying any of these behaviors above, it is a sign to you that your teen needs help.

Signs of High Resilience in Teens

  • Accountability for actions
  • Ability to handle disappointment
  • Ability to regulate emotions
  • Good communication skills
  • Awareness of self and others
  • Ability to advocate for self and others
  • Using healthy coping skills

Resilience doesn’t mean you don’t experience emotions.

Resilience is experiencing all emotions and having the ability to work through them in a way that doesn’t disrupt relationships or interfere with a person’s values or wants for themselves. 

How to build resilience in teens

While every person is different, these are a few ways you can help build resilience with your teen (and yourself).

Trust the Process of Self-Discovery

Resiliency begins with self-awareness and self-exploration.

As a parent, you can encourage this by supporting your teens discover of who they are, what they like, and how they respond in different situations.

This is your opportunity to support them in the activities they like. 

As a parent, it is your job to help your teen develop into the person they want to be, not the person you want them to be.

Imposing your expectations on who you’d like your teen to be, leads to low self-esteem, self-doubt, poor problem-solving development and low resilience

If your teen has different interests than you, or different views on life, this is your opportunity to be curious.

Being curious without judgement and seeking to understand your teen as they explore what they like and who they are supports higher self-esteem. It can also result in self-trust and higher resilience.

Teach Healthy Communication

Learning to express emotions, ideas, needs and wants is something everyone can benefit from, regardless of age.

Image of a male sitting on steps with face down and covered by hoodie. Read More: “5 Reasons Your Teen Doesn’t Talk To You”

Communication is one of the most challenging things to get clear and one of the most beneficial tools to have in healthy relationships.

In addition to learning to communicate clearly and effectively, listening is also an important component to developing healthy communication.

As parents, you can demonstrate healthy communication by learning how to do so yourself.

When you identify your emotions and needs, it can result in understanding as well as willingness to be heard. It is helpful to express your emotions and needs in a calm way with clarity.

Setting healthy boundaries is another form of communicating what is okay and not okay.

To learn more about communicating in a healthy, assertive way, Individual therapy, family therapy, parent support therapy, and couples counseling can be helpful and may be worth considering.

Learning to ask for help is a great first step in healthy communication.

Embrace Failure and Mistakes

Here’s the things, chances that you or your teen will make a mistake are high.

Image of a woman sitting at desk with laptop, coffee, books and to-do list, looking forlorn. Read More: “What You Likely Don’t Know About Perfectionism And Progress”

No one is perfect and making mistakes or experiencing failure doesn’t mean you aren’t a good person. It also doesn’t mean that you or your teen won’t amount to anything.

Learning and growth comes through mistakes and failures.

When things don’t turn out as hoped, this is an opportunity to explore why. This exploration of why leads to clarity on what might work better next time.

When we learn to focus on how we got to where we are whether that be a perceived failure or success, we actually learn to become more resilient.

Two great books to consider on this topic, “Mindset” by Carol Dwek and “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed” by Jessica Lahey.

When your teen makes a mistake or fails, resist the urge to rescue or give advice. Instead, provide comfort and ask questions like:

What do you think didn’t go well?

What would you do different next time?

What would you do the same next time?

What went well?

Encourage Using Coping Skills

Stress is part of life. Resilience is learning how to identify thoughts and emotions and manage them in a way that works well for you based on how you want to show up in the world and in relationships.

Image of a teen in a sweat suit meditating with eyes closed on bleachers. Read More: “5 Ways To Build A Mindfulness Practice As A Teen.”

Teaching teens coping skills start with identifying emotions.

Once they are able to identify the emotions they are feeling, then they can think through what might be helpful in working through their feelings and reactions.

For some, taking a walk, journaling, using breathing techniques are a great avenue to working through emotions. These are all ways to build resiliency skills.

If your teen struggles with identifying healthy coping skillsteen therapy can be helpful.

Teen therapists can teach coping skills to help in most situations.

If you are struggling with coping, individual therapy can be helpful for you too.

Teens notice how parents cope, and if you are coping in maladaptive ways including yelling, being short with others, using marijuana or alcohol, they may see those as healthy ways to cope.

Encourage Volunteering or Mentorship

Service and mentorship redirects our attention from ourselves, to others.

It helps to open our eyes to what’s going on in the world, with other people and not just ourselves.

Image of two males sitting next to each other on a ledge watching the sunset. Read More: “Spring Into Action: Engaging in Mentorship Benefits People of All Ages”.

Supporting others in a structured way can lead to increased self-esteem. It allows us the opportunity to help in a way that feels good; to give from what we know

Mentorship and volunteer work provides opportunities for teens to share their strengths and skills with others.

Teens mentoring other teens are able to share what they’ve learned through making mistakes and perceived failures to better adjust in the future.

This reinforces teens using their own coping skills and helpful reflection on learning through their own experiences.

Some great peer mentoring programs and volunteer opportunities in Colorado can be found at Colorado Young Leaders, Mentor Colorado, Spark The Change ColoradoSources of Strength, and Forward Together to name a few.

Exploring volunteer or mentoring opportunities helps teens in their process of self-discovery as well.

Finding activities or groups that align with a teens interest is a great way to increase socialization, further grow in their interests, learn how to communicate effectively, and yes, build resilience in giving back. 

Encourage Socialization

Socializing is how teens learn to build and navigate relationships. It provides opportunity for learning conflict resolution, healthy boundary setting, and most importantly, play.

Teens thrive in connection whether its with one good friend or a group of friends.

Socialization can take place on sports teams, school clubs, hanging out at the mall or park with friends, volunteering together, online game platforms. 

Encourage face-to-face interactions and don’t limit online connections completely unless it has proven to be unhealthy for your teen.

Teens need social support and connections to other teens.

Be curious about your teens’ friends. Offer to drive them to hang outs so you have organic opportunities to get to know them a little better. 

Be A Supportive, Loving Parent

Parents and caregivers play one of the most important roles in building resilience in teens.

Image of a teen sitting on stairs withhold covering head, head in lap. Read More: “5 Reasons Your Teen Doesn’t Talk To You”

Taking care of yourself and any anxiety you may feel as a parent through parent supports or learning, can make a tremendous impact on your teen developing resilience.

Being a loving, supportive parent, means you encourage your teen to develop their sense of self. You communicate with them in an assertive, loving way.

It is managing your own emotions and taking care of your emotional and mental health needs.

It is taking accountability when you cause harm or hurt to your teen and demonstrating a healthy apology.

Being a loving, supportive parent also means allowing your teen to make mistakes and being there for them as they figure it out, while not rescuing them. Encourage and allow them to problem solve.

If they get stuck, encourage them to try again and help them when they ask for help.

Building resiliency in teens is one of the most effective ways to ensure they have the tools they need to live the life they want to live.

Part of parenting is learning to support teens in taking risks, encourage exploring who they are, allowing them to fail and listening to them as they grieve these failures.

You can help them practice communicating assertively, setting healthy boundaries and managing big emotions. 

If you are struggling with any of these, it may also be beneficial for you to consider some of these same ideas to build your resiliency.

Teens learn by observing and they learn by watching their parents.

If you or your teen could use support in building resilience, we have teen therapists in Colorado and also offer parent support and individual therapy for adults as well. 

Book a Free Consultation

Julie is the owner of Denver Metro Counseling and has been working with teens and adults since 2006. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Associate Certified Coach, Approved Clinical Supervisor, EMDR Certified and an EMDRIA Approved Consultant.

Julie specializes in working with trauma, suicide risk, ADHD, anxiety, depression, and supporting other therapist through personal and professional growth. 

Denver Metro Counseling is a group of Denver therapists who provide teen therapy, young adult therapy, adult therapy, family therapy and other counseling and therapy in Denver and throughout Colorado.

We specialize in relationships, codependency, communication and boundaries and provide supportive therapy for people struggling with life transitions,  trauma, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, ADHD, negative body image, and more.

Our clinicians are trained and comfortable working with people who struggle with thoughts of suicide and work collaboratively with our clients and their loved ones to maintain safety through a trauma-informed approach.
Denver Metro Counseling

Our Clinician’s Bios:
Jessica Wright, MS, LPC, LPCC
Audrey Bristol, LSW
Molly Ward, LCSW
Karan Steuart, LCSW, LAC
Julie Reichenberger, MA, LPC, ACC, ACS



Follow Julie on Instagram: @julie_thetherapist and Denver Metro Counseling on Facebook: Denver Metro Counseling and Instagram: @denvermetrocounseling for other helpful information.