Mary Goodarzi headshotChild psychologist Dr. Mary Goodarzi follows up on her previous post and dives deeper into what resilience in kids really means, and what we can do to foster it.

1. How do you define resilience when talking about kids?

What does resilience really mean? I think there are so many definitions floating around that may make one think that resilience means being okay with facing challenges and difficulties with “toughness” or “grit.” But what it really means is that a child is able to cope when facing challenges and difficulties by expressing their difficult emotions or by continuing to do tasks that are difficult, even in the midst of a meltdown or the need for a break. Resilience is how one is able to adapt to change and continue to do their best work, etc.  Resilience is key when building our children’s self-confidence, as well as their motivation.


2. What are some characteristics of a resilient child?
  • Flexibility
  • Ability to adapt to change (and especially unexpected change)
  • Strong sense of self-confidence
  • Ability to express difficulty and vulnerability
3. What does a child need in order to develop resilience? 

First, they need to be validated and met where they are at in order to feel seen, heard, and connected with.  A child needs to be taught about what their difficult and uncomfortable feelings are when they arise (tantrums, meltdowns, etc.). They need to be reminded that learning is supposed to be difficult at times, that they are capable of doing hard and tricky things, and that they are supposed to not know things.  Ways to build “resliency” is to teach your child how to calm their body when these difficult feelings arise (taking deep breaths, etc), stating a mantra as a reminder to themself ( “I can do hard things, this might be tricky, but I can do it”).  It’s important to practice these moments with your child when you see them feeling down for not being able to do something easily, or when something doesn’t go their way.  And once you witness your child utilizing these strategies on their own, you can praise them for using these new skills to continue harnessing their confidence and hard work.


Dr. Mary Goodarzi is a Southern California-area child psychologist and a Piper+Enza expert contributor.