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Helping Your Child Build Inner Strength

Overview

Inner strength is the ability to cope with the stressful situations in life. This is often called "resilience."

Building inner strength begins with simple actions or thoughts that your child practices, such as planning for what to do next and learning to accept change. Inner strength can help a child face problems. Children who are resilient:

  • Are more likely to grow into healthy, happy adults, even when dealing with poverty, divorce, or family tragedy.
  • Are better able to stand up to peer pressure so they can avoid using drugs, drinking alcohol, and smoking.
  • Are better able to resist messages in the media that tell them to be or look a certain way.
  • Feel confident when meeting new people.
  • Like to do nice things for others.
  • Are loving and lovable.
  • Are optimistic about life.

Children often surprise us with how resilient they are. But there is much you can do as a parent to help your young child or your teenager grow stronger.

By working to develop a child's inner strength, you are giving that child the emotional and mental tools needed to stay healthy and happy throughout life.

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What Gives a Child Inner Strength?

Experts say that the single most important thing that gives children inner strength is having parents or other adults who are positive and nurturing.

Other things that help include:

  • Cognitive skills. These include skills like concentration, memory, and logical thinking.
  • Social skills. These include skills like behaving properly, showing love, and sharing.
  • Self-control.
  • Self-esteem.
  • A stable environment with rules and boundaries.
  • Opportunities to contribute.
  • Being listened to.

How Can You Help Children Build Inner Strength?

The most important thing you can do to help your child build inner strength is to show that you love them no matter what. Here are some other things you can do.

  • Remember that you're a role model.

    Your child learns by watching you. So be sure that your actions and behaviours teach your child how to:

    • Show love and affection.
    • Control anger.
    • Work with other people rather than against them.
    • Stay calm.
    • Look forward to tomorrow.
    • Express feelings.
    • Be brave.
    • Laugh.
  • Help your child feel safe and secure.

    To build inner strength, children need to feel loved and safe. They need a family that spends regular time together and offers a safe haven. Your child is more likely to feel safe and secure if you are dependable, consistent, respectful, and responsive.

  • Encourage safe exploration.

    Children need to explore to learn new skills and how to solve problems. Offer a variety of things to play with, read, create, and build. Try not to limit your child because of safety fears. Instead, do what you can to keep the child safe as they explore the world.

  • Help your child build social skills.

    Teach your child by showing kindness and acceptance toward others. And provide contact with peers. Playing with other children even 1 day a week gives a child opportunities to learn important social, emotional, and language skills. Children learn to share, co-operate, and negotiate with their peers. Many older children can form close friendships, which helps them learn sensitivity to the feelings of others.

  • Encourage independence.

    Children learn independence by practicing skills and doing things for themselves, such as getting dressed or brushing their teeth. This helps children feel that they're capable.

  • Help your child build self-esteem.

    Parents have the greatest influence on a child's belief about themself. Let children know that they belong, are doing well, and are contributing.

  • Teach your child how to manage stress.

    Controlling stress increases resilience.

  • Deal with fears.

    Your child may become very interested in scary subjects or images as a way to overcome them. Try to help your child by answering questions and providing reassurance.

  • Recognize and develop special talents.

    Being able to do at least one thing very well helps children build self-esteem. Pay attention to what your child likes to do. Help develop those skills, or find out where your child can learn more.

  • Help your child build empathy.

    This means that a child can recognize how others are feeling, care when others feel bad, and want to help them. You can help teach empathy by showing it in your own life and talking with your child about it. Talk about the importance of volunteer work, sharing, and helping others.

  • Set limits.

    This shows that you love and care about your child. Make sure that your rules are reasonable and that your child understands them. And follow through on any consequences for not following rules.

  • Use good discipline techniques.

    Discipline teaches appropriate behaviour. Effective techniques encourage your child's sense of responsibility, nurture self-esteem, and strengthen your parent-child relationship. Demonstrate and teach self-control. Avoid physical punishment for behaviour that is not appropriate.

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How Can You Help Teens Build Inner Strength?

The most important thing you can do to help your teen build inner strength is to show that you love them no matter what.

It often seems like teenagers never listen, but they do. So it's important to remember that you are still the primary role model, even as your child grows older.

Teenagers may be growing up, but they still need to:

  • Feel safe and loved.
  • Learn social skills.
  • Learn to handle stress.
  • Discover and develop their special talents.

Here are some ways you can help your teen.

  • Encourage independent, mature thinking.

    Let your teen make as many of their own decisions as possible. This includes involving your teen in setting household rules and schedules. Consider giving an allowance to help teach your child about financial responsibility.

  • Help your child bounce back after setbacks.

    Acknowledge the hurt or disappointment your teen may feel. But also encourage them to view setbacks as opportunities for growth, learning, and perseverance. Ask your teen what, if anything, they could have done differently and how a similar situation could be handled better next time.

  • Spend time with your teen.

    Make time in your schedule for you and your teen to do something together or just talk.

  • Address problems and concerns.

    Build trust gradually so your teen will feel safe talking with you about sensitive subjects. Knowing when and how to interfere in a teen's life is an ongoing challenge of parenthood.

  • Encourage community service.

    This gives your teen the chance to explore how they connect with others. While helping others, your teen can find new skills and new ways of looking at things.

  • Offer strategies to avoid tobacco, drugs, and alcohol.

    Set firm, fair, and consistent limits for your teen. Talk about the immediate and long-lasting results of substance use, such as falling grades and poor health during adulthood. Practice how to respond when a harmful substance is offered.

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What Barriers Can Affect Inner Strength?

Research shows that some children are more likely to have problems building inner strength. They may have risk factors that make it harder for them to be resilient. These include being in certain situations, having certain medical conditions, or having certain personalities. But the more parents understand about these risk factors, the better they will be able to help their child learn how to cope.

Internal risk factors are part of a child's personality or health history. Examples include:

  • Hyperactivity.
  • Concentration problems.
  • Problems with learning.
  • Serious illness.

External risk factors are in the family, schools, and community. Examples include:

  • Poverty.
  • Parents with severe marital problems.
  • Remarriage of parents.
  • Moving to a new town.
  • Overcrowded classrooms.
  • Bullying.
  • High crime rate in the neighbourhood.

A counsellor or therapist can help you and your child learn healthy ways to cope with stress.

Credits

Current as of: March 1, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board:
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine

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