Developing Mental Strength in Youth

We’d like to share with you a wonderful resource shared with us by the Florida Department of Health. Building resilience in our youth is really important, as we believe youth are able to make their own healthy decisions, but only when armed with accurate information. Students are oftentimes in unhealthy environments, have experienced traumatic events, and may be under tremendous negative peer pressure. Aspire’s programming is crucial in the classroom as we continue engaging Citrus County students and giving them the information they need. Please read the following fact sheet from The American Psychology Association regarding mental strength in youth. We hope this resource will encourage you and give you ideas of how you can work positively in your youth’s life during this upcoming extended break. From all of us at Aspire, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

10 strategies[1] to help students develop the strength they need to become a mentally strong adult from

  1. Teach Specific Skills

Rather than making kids suffer for their mistakes, discipline should be about teaching kids how to do better next time. Instead of punishment, use consequences that teach useful skills, such as problem-solving and impulse control.

  1. Let Your Child Make Mistakes

Mistakes are an inevitable part of life and learning. Teach your child or student that this is so and that they shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed about getting something wrong.

  1. Teach Your Child How to Develop Healthy Self-Talk

It’s important to help children develop a realistic and optimistic[2] outlook on life, and how to reframe negative thoughts[3] when they arise. Learning this skill early in life will help them persevere through difficult times.

  1. Encourage Your Child to Face Fears Head-On

Enabling a child to face their fears head-on will help them gain invaluable confidence. One way to do this is to teach your child to step outside of their comfort zone and face their fears one small step at a time while praising and rewarding their efforts.

  1. Allow Your Child to Feel Uncomfortable

It can be tempting to soothe or rescue your child or student whenever they are struggling, but it’s important to allow them to sometimes lose or struggle, and insist that they are responsible even when they don’t want to be. Dealing with small struggles on their own can help children to build their mental strength.

  1. Build Character

Children with a strong moral compass[4] and value system will be better able to make healthy decisions. You can help by instilling values[5] such as honesty[6] and compassion[7], and creating learning opportunities that reinforce these values, regularly.

  1. Make Gratitude a Priority

Practicing gratitude[8] is one of the greatest things you can do for your mental health, and it’s no different for children (for more, see our Gratitude Tree for Kids[9].) Gratitude helps us to keep things in perspective, even during the most challenging times. To raise a mentally strong child you should encourage them to practice gratitude on a regular basis.

  1. Affirm Personal Responsibility

Accepting responsibility for your actions or mistakes is also part of building mental strength involves. If your student is trying to blame others for the way he/she thinks, feels or behaves, simply steer them away from excuses and allow for explanations.

  1. Teach Emotion Regulation Skills

Instead of soothing or calming down your child every time they are upset, teach them how to deal with uncomfortable emotions on their own so that they don’t grow up depending on you to regulate their mood. Children who understand their range of feelings (see the Emotion Wheel[10]) and have experience dealing with them are better prepared to deal with the ups and downs of life.

  1. Be A Role Model for Mental Strength

There’s no better way to teach a child than by example. To encourage mental strength in your students or children, you must demonstrate mental strength. Show them that you make self-improvement a priority in your life, and talk about your goals and steps you take to grow stronger.