Building resilience in youth

When kids go through something challenging, making sure they thrive and succeed is a big learning step for them. Learning how to be resilient is what they do afterwards.

As a parent, you want to make sure your kids are in a safe environment, protected from the bad and want only the good to happen. We can’t always be there for our children, so we need some tools to help them through tough situations. When challenges arise, youth of all ages need to learn how to overcome and become stronger. This is being resilient – what you do after you go through some type of crisis. When youth learn new life skills, they become stronger in believing in themselves, building their self-esteem and handling what is dealt to them. These skills are then carried over into their adult life.

Deborah Gilboa, MD, or “Dr. G,” gives tips on teaching resilience to youth in all ages. Listed below are a few examples she uses to help build youth resilience and self-esteem.

  • Getting lost happens (ages 2-4). Resilience is what they do next. Teach the child these rules: Remember cell phone numbers, stay with a buddy, if lost - stay put, and know who trustworthy grownups are, such as a police officer or uniformed employee.
  • Read a label (ages 5-7). In the food and nutrition area, learning how to read a label helps youth understand what they are eating, and helps them make better choices.
  • Field trip forms (ages 8-10). Who doesn’t like to fill out the many forms we have these days? Youth can learn this task at this age. This is an important life skill youth will carry over in their adult years. All the questions on the form, including where we are going, how long the trip is and what does it cost, can be taught to youth when the form is filled; the adult just has to put down the signature.
  • Show me the money (ages 11-14). Fundraising is a great opportunity to begin teaching youth at this age. Youth are beginning to look at the real world and yes, there is hunger, homelessness, foster children, animal abuse, etc. Youth can start learning the process of standing up for a cause and raising money for that cause. Learning how to advocate and get others involved is also a great learning tool for youth at this age.
  • Pay the bills (ages 15-17). When bills are ready to be paid, have your teenager sit down with you and learn about the cost of different items. Whether they are the monthly electric bills, water bills or house payment, this age is a good time for them to start learning about writing checks or paying bills online. It gives them an idea of what kinds of costs are out there in the real world.

Dr. G gives many tips on working with youth to help build resiliency. For further information on her book, “Teach Resilience,” visit her website at Ask Doctor G.

For more information on Michigan State University Extension youth programs including life skills, visit your local MSU Extension office.

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