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How to Cultivate Resilience for Youth

Tonya Hotchkin, LMFT, RPT, CTRP-C, is the VP of Clinical Services at Tanager Place


AdobeStock 233512457 2Bike riding, fort building, rock collections and swimming are a few of the things that come to mind when recalling childhood. A youth’s younger years should be filled with memories rooted in innocence, bliss, and creativity. When we think of our early life we are typically taken back to a time when life seemed a little more simple.

However, this may not be the case for upcoming generations. The AAP, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and Children’s Hospital Association have declared a national emergency in children’s mental health, citing the serious toll of the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to existing challenges.

“Young people have endured so much throughout this pandemic and while much of the attention is often placed on its physical health consequences, we cannot overlook the escalating mental health crisis facing our patients,” AAP President Lee Savio Beers, M.D., FAAP, said in a statement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers report that between March and October 2020, emergency department visits for mental health emergencies rose by 24% for children ages 5-11 years and 31% for children ages 12-17 years. In addition, emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempt increased nearly 51% among girls ages 12-17 years in early 2021 compared to the same period in 2019.

“We are caring for young people with soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness, and suicidality that will have lasting impacts on them, their families, their communities, and all of our futures,” said AACAP President Gabrielle A. Carlson, M.D.

While these organizations are making recommendations such as increased federal funding, improved access to care, integration of mental health and advancing policies, it begs the question, ‘what can be done on a day-to-day basis to increase youths’ mental well-being and resilience in the midst of such stress?’

Here are some suggestions based on the RISE: Wellness and Resilience Framework.

  • Ensure access to adaptive and healthy Relationships in a youth’s life
    • Help them identify adults they trust
    • Spend at least 30 minutes in connection
    • Be a good role model
  • Increase their indicators of well-being (safety, connection & belonging, meaning & purpose, efficacy)
    • Aim for predictability and consistency
    • Establish routines
    • Get them involved and a part of something
    • Help them find their passion
    • Volunteer or engage in helping others
    • Do goal setting and focus on perseverance
    • Help them identify their strengths and ways to use them
  • Build their Social and emotional development
    • Help your child identify their emotions
    • Help them identify others emotions
    • Practice using coping skills
  • Allow opportunities for Enhancing their mind, body and spirit
    • Practice gratitude
    • Assist with learning and engaging in healthy eating
    • Teach them and model healthy sleeping habits
    • Disconnect from screens and social media

Helping youth learn how to overcome challenges while supporting their struggles can be a difficult balance.  By taking time to cultivate a youth’s resilience and well-being, you can help invest in one of the most important things that will influence our future; our youth.

If your children or a youth you know is struggling, know there is help available.

Tanager Place Mental Well-being Clinic 319-286-4545

Foundation 2 Crisis Line 319-362-2174 or 1-800-332-4224

For more information on resilient parenting check out our 11-part parenting series at


AAP Interim guidance on children’s emotional and behavioral health during the pandemic

Copyright (2022)

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