Deploying the 7 Cs to build resilience in children

One of the best ways to help our children become a successful, capable, happy human being is to teach resilience. Parents are role models for their children. People who can cope with the stress of everyday life, the occasional crisis, competently handle an emergency or natural disaster have resilience; the flexibility and inner strength to bounce back when things are not going well. Adults with resilience also know how to ask for help in times of trouble. Their ability to deal with the “stuff” life sometimes throws at them serves as a model for developing coping skills for children.

Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, author of “A Parent’s Guide to Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Your Child Roots and Wings.”, has seven Cs of resilience to help parents grow their children’s abilities and inner resources.


Competence describes the feeling of knowing that you can handle a situation effectively. We develop of competence by:

Helping children focus on individual strengths

Empowering children to make decisions

Being careful that your desire to protect your child doesn’t mistakenly send a message that you don’t think he or she is competent to handle things

Recognizing the competencies of siblings individually and avoiding comparisons


A child’s belief in his own abilities is derived from competence. Build confidence by:

Focusing on the best in each child so that he or she can see that, as well

Clearly expressing the best qualities, such as fairness, integrity, persistence, and kindness

Recognizing when he or she has done well

Praising honestly about specific achievements? not diffusing praise that may lack authenticity

Not pushing the child to take on more than he or she can realistically handle


Developing close ties to family and community creates a solid sense of security that helps lead to strong values and prevents alternative destructive paths to love and attention. Help your child connect with others by:

Building a sense of physical safety and emotional security within your home

Allowing the expression of all emotions, so that kids will feel comfortable reaching out during difficult times

Addressing conflict openly in the family to resolve problems

Creating a common area where the family can share time (not necessarily TV time)

Fostering healthy relationships that will reinforce positive messages


Children need to develop a solid set of morals and values to determine right from wrong and to demonstrate a caring attitude toward others. Strengthen your child’s character by:

Demonstrating how behaviors affect others

Helping your child recognize himself or herself as a caring person

Demonstrating the importance of community

Avoiding racist or hateful statements or stereotypes


Children need to realize that the world is a better place because they are in it. Understanding the importance of personal contribution can serve as a source of purpose and motivation. Teach children how to contribute by:

Communicating to children that many people in the world do not have what they need

Stressing the importance of serving others by modeling generosity

Creating opportunities for each child to contribute in some specific way


Learning to cope effectively with stress will help your child be better prepared to overcome life’s challenges. Positive coping lessons include:

Modeling positive coping strategies on a consistent basis

Guiding your child to develop positive and effective coping strategies

Understanding that many risky behaviors are attempts to alleviate the stress and pain in kids’ daily lives

Not condemning your child for negative behaviors and, potentially, increasing his or her sense of shame


Children who realize that they can control the outcomes of their decisions are more likely to realize that they have the ability to bounce back. Your child’s understanding that he or she can make a difference further promotes competence and confidence. Empower children by:

Helping your child to understand that life’s events are not purely random and that most things that happen are the result of another individual’s choices and actions

Learning that discipline is about teaching, not punishing or controlling? using discipline to help your child to understand that his actions produce certain consequences

Dr. Ginsburg summarizes what is known for sure about the development of, not only resilience in children, but all positive development of young people:

Children need to know that there is an adult in their life who believes in them and loves them unconditionally.

Kids will live “up” or “down” to our expectations.

Linda Sanchez is the program director for U.P. KIDS.