Emotional Resilience 743.1

Despite romanticized myths about the gloriously carefree teenage years, adolescence has always been an emotional battlefield where young people must fight their way through insecurity, depression and anger.

For many teens, classrooms, playgrounds and hallways are hostile environments where name-calling, malicious gossip, taunting, and physical bullying regularly threaten their emotional and physical well-being

Technology has not made kids meaner but it has provided them with new weapons to inflict more severe and lasting damage on each other. And while greater vigilance by schools and stiffer penalties for bullies may reduce unkind behavior, somewhat more is needed to protect young people from each other.

Hard as we may try, we can’t insulate children from all negative interactions with their peers, excessive pressure to succeed, debilitating self-doubt, or feelings of alienation. We can, however, help them develop emotional resilience, the inner strength to prevent or purge toxic feelings.

Emotional resilience consists of two major attributes: mental toughness and realistic optimism.

Mental toughness is the ability to handle problems and pressures without panic or surrender. It’s the ability to overcome negative emotions and to rebound from disappointment, disruptive change, illness, or misfortune without being overwhelmed or acting in dysfunctional ways.

Through discussions, simulations and counseling, we can teach kids how to discount or ignore hurtful words, to lose without being defeated, to fail and not become failures, and to deal with rejection without becoming hopelessly dejected.

We can also instill a sense of realistic optimism. We can give them confidence in their capacity to survive, knowing that tough times are temporary. We can teach them Little Orphan Annie’s undaunted certainty that, no matter how bleak it is today, “the sun will come out tomorrow.”

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.


In the most extreme cases, young people seek the ultimate escape of suicide, and kids are killing themselves in unprecedented proportions. In the past 25 years, the suicide rate for those between 10 and 19 has tripled to become the third most common cause of death among adolescents.

In 2009, 13.8% of U.S. high school students reported that they had seriously considered attempting suicide during the 12 months preceding the survey; 6.3% of students reported that they had actually attempted suicide one or more times during the same period.
Suicide rates differ between boys and girls. Girls think about and attempt suicide about twice as often as boys, and tend to attempt suicide by overdosing on drugs or cutting themselves. Yet boys die by suicide about four times as often girls, perhaps because they tend to use more lethal methods, such as firearms, hanging, or jumping from heights.

For more information, go to this document from the federal Centers for Disease Control.

Comments 4

  1. Just as teens think themselves invincible regarding risk taking, it seems teens don’t think about the consequences of their bullying behavior… not only in terms of their victims, but in terms of their own futures. I just read an article posted today by Bob Sullivan of msnbc’s Red Tape Chronicles… the article talks about employers’ use of social media to make hiring decisions. He writes…
    “Now, a single moment of bad judgment — an unflattering photo, an inappropriate comment or something more serious — can live forever in friends’ Facebook posts or tweets. Worse yet, the information is easily searchable by future employers.”
    With this in mind, adolescent (or adult) bullying behavior has the potential to follow someone their entire life. As a manager. I would not hire someone that I knew had a background in bullying behavior.
    Bullies may later regret their behavior, as Tim McGraw sings…
    We used to chase that boy home from school
    We called him freckle faced red headed fool
    He was different, he wasn’t cool like me
    Sticks and stones didn’t break any bones
    But we never left well enough alone
    One day he ran away from home you see
    And I passed him as he walked away
    And in his eyes I heard him say
    One of these days you’re gonna love me
    You’ll sit down by yourself and think
    Of all the times you pushed and shoved me
    And what good friends we might have been
    And then you’re gonna sigh a little
    And maybe even cry a little
    But one of these days you’re gonna love me
    One of these days I’m gonna love me
    And feel the joy of sweet release
    One of these days I’ll rise above me
    And at last I’ll find some peace
    And then I’m gonna smile a little
    And maybe even laugh a little
    But one of these days…
    I’m gonna love me
    Hopefully, that peace will come sooner than later.

  2. It’s all fine and well that you list stats about teen suicide however you have not included the reasons for those rates and have inferred that it is due to bullying. There are other pressures that lead to suicide such as parental expectations, performance pressure, and family abuse, just to name a few that have absolutely nothing to do with bullying. To cite these misleading stats without the associated causes is quite disingenuous.

  3. I disagree with your statement that technology has not made kids meaner. I think it has absolutely had an effect. Technology has given us more free time; when people are busy trying to survive, they just don’t have the time for nonsense. Second, haven’t you noticed that as the internet has allowed so much access to the world, that younger and younger children are watching more programs on sex, drugs, and violence than ever before? Not to mention the programs that set our expectations for what we should have and be able to do and unrealistic for most people. I am constantly amazed at what is considered PG13 or PG. Our standards have changed considerably. We are creating generations with higher expectations and lower abilities but our greed for what technology can give us (and the money made) are probably going to keep us on this ill-advised path for some time. The spreading gap between what you expect and what you can get makes for frustration, anger, and meanness.

  4. Sometimes I think parents deny that 1) their children could ever be the cause of bullying (or are being bullied), 2) don’t teach their children how to cope with bullying and 3) don’t inspire confidence in their children so they are less apt to be pulled into the belief that they deserve to be bullied. I was raised in a home where my father constantly made sure I knew he was ALWAYS going to be smarter than me, that I was determined to fail and always made such poor judgment calls. That had a lasting affect on me. It took until I married the second time to a man who found such incredible value in me, as a person, not my accomplishments, that I was able to get past feeling incompetent. At 60, I can still fall into that trap, if the feeling of ineptness is thrown at me by someone in a supervisory position,even when I know I have done everything in my power to complete whatever project to the best of my ability, but was told it was done incorrectly, not in time, sloppy, whatever. Parents… please cherish your children, but let their natural consequences prevail, if not life threatening. They will learn, really.

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