Building Resilience

Resilience refers to a person’s ability to cope and adapt in the face of adversity or change. Genetic factors account for an element of personal resilience, and this then varies and is developed through interactions with the environment and people within it. Building resilience in children is an essential component of positive health and wellbeing and increases perseverance and recovery when navigating challenges. At Catalyst resilience is a key cog within our system and threads throughout our work with the  Resiliency Framework (BoingBoing) providing the scaffold for our resource navigation. This resource will aim to give an overview of resilience and then focus in on how this can be developed within children and young people.

The science of resilience

Below is introductory video on science of resilience from the Harvard Center for the Developing Child. For further videos they have produced on resilience click here.

Building resilience

The Resilience Framework

Boingboing describe resilience as “Beating the odds whilst also changing the odds” [Source] a view which aligns with our belief in social justice and social inclusion. The importance of resilience has been noted in the research with systematic literature searches showing that “higher levels of resilience are related to fewer mental health problems” [Source] and identify the need for a focus on further preventative intervention as a next step. How to build resilience is a holistic discourse however the Boingboing resiliency framework is a user-friendly construction with key aspects which have been developed and refined to allow those supporting CYP to focus on exploring various areas of potential need. Boingboing have produced an interactive version of their framework to allow for efficient exploration of each area listed, click here to explore.

‘Resilience Framework (Children and Young People) Oct 2012 – Boingboing, adapted from Hart and Blincow with Thomas 2007’. [Picture Source]

Top Tips from Family Lives

Building resilience is a key component to supporting children’s development, Family Lives share some top tips on key areas as well as offering a clear infographic which outlines these top tips alongside practical ways to build resilience and emotional health in children.

  • Promote positive relationships.
  • Encourage independence.
  • Support them to understand, manage and express their emotions.
  • Champion confidence and taking on new challenges.

The Children's Society 

For older children and young people the children society has also produced a child friendly overview to help children recognise how to build mental resilience.

Resources for professionals and families

Boingboing share a wide variety of building resilience resources for schools, parents/carers and young people.

Lesson Plans and Toolkits

Young Minds share a lesson plan which introduces the concept of resilience to children age 3-11 - Beano resilience lesson plans

Healthy schools Cambridge and Peterborough offer toolkits, lesson plans and information about a whole school approach to resilience.

Barclays LifeSkills have teaching resources focused on self-confidence and meeting challenges with confidence.

Worth-It have an extensive teaching toolkit for pupil resilience workshops.

Save the children’s resource centre include worksheets for the child resilience programme.

Reading recommendations

Stories are a great child friendly way to support emotional literacy. Below are stories which can be used to support an understanding of feelings and help the child to recognise ‘normal’ feelings and expand their language to help with managing and expressing their emotions.

The Orangutan Who Sang by Jay Vincent and Stew Wright

A heartwarming story about an Orangutan with big dreams but shyness to overcome. With the help of friends in the jungle, he finds a way to achieve his ambitions and defeat his fears. 

Bibbit Jumps by Bei Lynn

Bibbit is a frog who struggles with his confidence, worrying if his jumping is good enough and thinking that the next task might be impossible. This text is perfect to share with year one or year two. This is a charming and empathetic story to help encourage children to try new things, and not be afraid of what might go wrong.

LOUD! by Rose Robbins

A subtle and engaging picture book story about Abigail, a girl who gets easily distracted in class and assumes the role of class clown. When the music teacher takes a different approach, Abigail’s world is opened up to new opportunities and a chance to shine. A great book for children who get frustrated by the expectations of school life.

Bartholomew and the Morning Monsters by Sophie Berger and Ruan Van Vliet

Bartholomew’s dad despairs each morning trying to get his son ready for the day ahead. But little does he realise that Bartholomew’s naughty night monsters are to blame. Illustrated in vibrant and revoltingly funny glory, they cause chaos the moment Bartholomew wakes up. Slowly his dad helps him to develop a routine that overcomes the pink and purple hairy creature, the slobbering sock stealer that stops him getting dressed, and the coiled blue grinning snake that steals his hairbrush. 

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae

The story centres around Gerald a clumsy giraffe who wants to dance but is humiliated at the Jungle Dance. He meets a wise cricket who teaches him to discover his own unique and wonderful moves. The book promotes themes of courage, growth mindset, and support from others. It also raises issues regarding people's abilities and provides an opportunity for students to discuss how they know what their abilities are.

The Huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside

Jenny goes, her worries follow her - in a big blue bag. They are with her all the time - at school, at home, when she is watching TV and even in the bathroom! Jenny decides they have to go, but who will help her get rid of them? A book which encourages children to open up about their fears and anxieties to help manage their feelings.

Further reading/information

TedTalk: How to build resilient children - Teresse Lewis

British Psychological Society - Building resilience

BBC ‘How to build resilience in your child’


Last update: 14/05/2024