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Conversations That Teach Resilience: Young Adults


teenager with book talking on phone outdoors

Resilience provides the ability cope with challenges, rise above negative feelings, bounce back from bad experiences, and move forward in the face of adversity. Have conversations with your young adult that foster resilience to help them with challenges they will face throughout life with confidence.

Help your young adult children develop self-efficacy by having open conversations with them using these four tips:

1. Have young adults evaluate their own performance

Ask young adults to evaluate their own performance before giving them feedback. This helps them identify what they did well, what kind of effort they put into the task, and what they learned. Example:

Parent: How’s the job hunt going?

Young adult: Okay, I guess. I have an interview next week.

Parent: That’s great, what for?

Young adult: A cashier at a coffee shop. I don’t really want to work there but I need a job. And this is the third interview I’ve had at a coffee shop...I never heard back from the others.

Parent: Maybe you would have more luck if you applied for a job at a place you want to work.

Young adult: Yeah I guess so. I am on the waiting list for that chef’s program at college next year...maybe I could get some experience working in a kitchen.

Parent: Sounds like a great idea!

Young adult: Maybe I’ll apply to some restaurants and see how it goes…

2. Share what you’ve learned about your performance

Reinforce positive modelling, not only through your own behaviour, but by asking young adults what they observed someone else doing well. Practise healthy self-reflection and share with them what you liked about your own behaviour and what you might improve with practice or effort. Example:

Parent: When’s your interview again?

Young adult: The interview at the coffee shop is tomorrow. But I’m going to take my resume to a restaurant that my friend Jennifer works at today.

Parent: Does Jennifer like working there?

Young adult: Yeah, she really likes it. They’ve already given her a raise!

Parent: How did she get the job?

Young adult: I don’t know, I guess she’s really outgoing. She said she talked to the manager when she dropped off her resume – he interviewed her right on the spot! I don’t really want to do that though, makes me nervous. I’m too shy.

Parent: I remember applying for jobs. And, like you, I used to get really nervous going to interviews and dropping off resumes. But the more I did it, the easier it got. And, my mom used to help me practise. She would pretend to be the employer and ask me interview questions. It sounds silly, but it actually helped me feel more confident and prepared.

Young adult: Haha, it does sound funny. But maybe it’d help me if we did that?

3. Tell them what they can do, not what they didn’t do

Failure is a necessary part of learning, and mastering any difficult task takes repeated, concentrated practice. When giving feedback on areas that need to be addressed, tell young adults what they can do in order to succeed at the task rather than what they did not do. Practise measuring success in terms of self-improvement rather than by triumphs over others. Example:

Parent: So, any news on the job front?

Young adult: The interview at the coffee shop went terribly. BUT I talked to the manager at the restaurant Jennifer works at and have an interview with them tomorrow!

Parent: That’s too bad about the coffee shop, but hopefully it was good practise for your interview tomorrow. Why did it go terribly? 

Young adult: Well I had plans to go out with some friends the night before. So I was pretty tired and felt like I didn’t practice enough…

Parent: I remember you saying you didn’t really want to work there.

Young adult: Yeah, in a way it’s kind of a relief. I really want the job at the restaurant.

Parent: Well at least you got some extra practise. And now you know that being prepared for an interview should be your first priority, before hanging out with your friends.

Young adult: Yeah, for sure!

4. Teach young adults how to calm themselves when stressed

Help young adults tune into their bodies and explain how the physiological signs of stress are actually healthy mechanisms that get their bodies ready for action rather than signs of imminent failure. Teach them how to take slow deep breaths and feel the difference between tension and relaxation, and have them practise the feared task in their imagination while feeling good about themselves. Example:

Young adult: I’m nervous about the interview this afternoon.

Parent: That’s your body telling you to get prepared for action. It’s good to be aware that your body talks to you.

Young adult: But what if “getting prepared for action” makes me all shaky and I stumble over my words when answering their questions?

Parent: Well, you could try calming yourself by taking slow, deep breaths. Let’s try it together right now….Can you feel the tension leaving your body?... Okay, now imagine yourself sitting at the interview, telling them about your goals of becoming a chef, and how hard you’re willing to work. A lot of successful people do this, they visualize themselves doing well to help them de-stress and focus.

Resources and Links:

HealthLink BC: Stress Management: Helping Your Child with Stress
HealthLink BC: Cognitive Development Ages 15-18 Years
Here to Help: Resilience: A guide for parents and youth

Last Updated: March 31, 2015