Father talking with tween son in residential kitchen

Children face many challenges, from academic pressures to social media, that can impact their emotional well-being. Valeria Arias, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Loma Linda University Health, has tips to help parents equip their children with the tools they need to navigate life's ups and downs.

Understanding emotional resilience

"Emotional resilience is being able to adapt to stressful situations and cope with life's challenges," says Arias. "It's about bouncing back from adversity and maintaining a sense of well-being." Building this resilience doesn't happen overnight. It's a continuous process that involves nurturing various skills and attitudes in children.

Why it matters

"Kids who are emotionally resilient are better equipped to handle stress, build healthy relationships, and maintain a positive outlook even in difficult times," said Arias. This resilience benefits them in their childhood and sets the foundation for a healthier, more balanced adulthood.

Strategies for fostering emotional resilience

Arias offers several practical steps for parents and educators to help build emotional resilience in children:

Model resilient behavior

Children learn by observing the adults around them. "Show them how you handle stress and setbacks," says Arias. "Demonstrate positive coping strategies and a problem-solving attitude. Further, practice verbally labeling your emotions around your children to build language for them to use when expressing how they feel." Practice verbally labeling your emotions around children to help them develop the language they need to express their feelings.

Encourage open communication

It is essential to create an environment where kids feel safe expressing their feelings and where parents express their emotions intentionally. "Listen to them without judgment and validate their emotions. As parents we often want to shield and protect from uncomfortable feelings, however allowing them the space to share without bouncing into “saving mode” immediately will allow an opportunity for emotional language growth and reflective skills on their emotional experiences all while building communication with others" Arias said. "This helps them understand that it's okay to feel upset and that they can talk about their problems."

Promote problem-solving skills

Instead of immediately solving problems for children, encourage them to come up with solutions on their own. "Ask guiding questions that help them think through their options and consequences," says Arias. "This fosters independence and confidence."

Foster a growth mindset

Teaching children that failure is a part of learning can help them view challenges as opportunities. "Encourage them to see mistakes as a way to grow and improve," she says.

Build strong relationships

Positive relationships with family and friends provide a support system for children. "Encourage them to build and maintain healthy connections with people who can offer emotional support during challenging times. 

Teach emotional regulation

Helping children recognize and manage their emotions is key to resilience and emotional regulation. "Set aside time to practice mindfulness and relaxation exercises together, support one another, and talk about the need to build such skills both as an adult and as a child. This can help children remain calm and focused when they face challenges and be able to see their parents building the same skills with them, truly modeling “it's okay to not be okay” as a parent.”

As discussions about mental health continue to expand, the importance of emotional resilience in children becomes increasingly clear. "By prioritizing these skills, we're not just helping children manage their current challenges. We're equipping them with the tools they need for a lifetime of emotional well-being."

Explore mental health care at Loma Linda University Behavioral Health or contact them at 909-558-9500 for personalized assistance and treatment planning.