Is Your Teen Resilient?

Do this ONE THING to make them resilient.

Make your love and commitment to your kids count.  Not to sound dramatic, but this is not a normal time.  You know it, too.  Our kids need us now more than ever. 


That said, this letter may well be the most important thing you’ll read in your life.  Here’s why.


Being a teen is tough enough in the best of times.  


Add to that the huge disruption caused by COVID as school starts, economic uncertainties and social unrest and what parent isn’t losing sleep worried about how their teen will get their life started in a world that seems to get more chaotic by the minute?


There really is no time to waste.  We need to get our teens ready not only for school, but to thrive in the uncertain world we live in. 


More than anything, this ONE THING will help build the foundation of resilience in your teen.  First, some basics:


The isolation caused by COVID-19 is actually an opportunity to build key resilient strengths for an uncertain future.


You can flip the problem of social isolation caused by COVID on its head.


You can use this time as a kind of “time out” and use it to anchor some essential resilient skills that your teen will need to thrive in the face of the uncertainties and huge challenges that lie ahead.


To do nothing is to risk missing this opportunity to prepare your teen.


You can help your teen now to direct the course of their lives with vision and resilience. 


You can help your child now to avoid years of indecision and false starts so many young people are caught in.


You can help your teen now so that they come out stronger, wiser, more confident and better prepared to launch their lives successfully and to even heal our ailing world.


From this generation, there will likely arise some truly historic figures who will meet the challenges of our time in historic ways.


We need to do all we can to can to give them now, right in the middle of the chaos caused by COVID, the resilient strengths they need to meet the challenges of these historic times.



Begin Today To Make Your Teen More Resilient

with this CRITICAL First Step.



Having set up resilience programs for New York City after 9/11, for the State Department through my program at Harvard University and other places all over the world, I can tell you with absolute confidence that you can use these challenging times to bring out the very best in your kids.


To help you do that, this letter will do a few things for you:


1. I’ll show you the critical principles of the first stage of resilience so you have a blueprint to help you think through how to build resilience in your teen.


2. Then, I’ll show you the profoundly helpful “I See You” Transformation Exercise that lays the critically important first stage of resilient growth in your teen.  Start today doing the “I See You” Transformation Exercise with your teen.  It will vastly accelerate their launch into resilience.  THE MORE YOU DO THIS WITH YOUR TEEN, THE MORE SOLID WILL BE YOUR TEEN’S RESILIENCE!   Do it as often as you can. 


Now, on to the core principles.


The critical first principle of resilience to understand is


Everyone Wants To Be Seen For Their Best Selves,

Especially Teens.


For instance, even when we make a mistake, we want our best self to be understood, we might say,


“I didn’t mean it, I was only trying to…” and then we explain a good motive, a skill or a good goal we had intended that didn’t quite pan out.


You see, even when we mess up, we often have a motive, a skill, a plan or a goal we think is good that we want others to see.   This is true for teens too.


The negative consequences of the mistake, however, tends to overshadow our motives in the eyes of others.  Most then become embarrassed or ashamed.  They lose confidence and motivation.


And there is the issue.


The Problem For Teens Is

They Don’t Have Many Refined Skills Yet…


So they make a lot of mistakes.


These mistakes make them feel embarrassed or humiliated.


So, they might stop trying because they don’t want to embarrass or humiliate themselves.


They then feel inadequate for not trying.


They start to feel like they can’t do anything


and beat themselves up for not being good enough.


A “Vicious Cycle” Of Feeling Passive And Powerless Results.


Your teen may then fall into ways to avoid feeling embarrassed and powerless


by not trying at school, work or at home, or


by distracting themselves from real contact with others where they might make a “mistake” and feel exposed and be occupied instead with meaningless, time consuming or even dangerous activities.


Think video games…   their phone…  or drugs…  or porn…  or whatever.


The trick is to change the game, to reverse the equation and …


Do the Opposite of What You Would Expect:

Ignore The Problem… For Awhile.


There are important things to do BEFORE you focus on helping a teen solve their problem.


You want to deflect the focus from the problem for a bit, until you have helped your teen feel competent enough to approach the problem.


Maybe you’ve seen your teen stop trying when they feel overwhelmed, confused or inadequate.  They can feel these things and then get stuck in anxiety and indecision if we focus on the problem too soon.


The good news is, you can short-circuit that disempowering response and create the conditions needed for your teen to have a confident self-empowered response.


What you want to do is…


Avoid These Motivation Killers And

Change The Focus From The Problem

To The Strengths Your Teen Is Trying To Show.


A mistake, and the humiliation or embarrassment that come with it, are motivation killers for many teens.


They reinforce the idea in your teen that they can’t do anything and shouldn’t try.


But if you first focus on the resilient strengths of your teen and not the problem…


You Can Set Up A “Virtuous Cycle”

Of Empowering Resilient Growth.


Sounds deceptively obvious and simple, and it is, but doing it right is absolutely critical to your teen’s resilient growth.


You change the focus from the mistake or problem and how incompetent your teen is feeling…


To the resilient character strength that they were trying to show.


This places the focus on your teen’s resilient character and that they have the power to act.


This doesn’t fix the problem yet, but it keeps your teen’s motivation alive so they are willing to try, while helping them identify the strengths they need to apply to the problem at hand...


This will make more sense when I show you the “I See You” Transformation Exercise.


The “I See You” Transformation Exercise:

The Critical First Stage Of Building Your Teen’s Resilience

So You Can Sleep At Night Knowing Your Teen Will Thrive.

The “I See You” Transformation Exercise in 5 Steps:

Do this with your teen today and as often as possible to build the foundation of their resilience.


1. Educate yourself about WHAT RESILIENT STRENGTHS TO LOOK FOR in your teen.


You can’t promote your teen’s resilient strengths if you don’t know what a resilient strength looks like.




An essential part of developing your teen’s resilient strength is you getting better at seeing resilient strengths in them.  You can develop this ability on your own, but I’ll save you time and hassle.


  • Download the My Resilient Teen Strengths Checklist”below
  • Look through it and ask yourself which of these resilient skills are present in your teen.  
  • Talk to your spouse, partner or family members about which of these strengths you see in your teen.  
  • (optional) Share this with your friends. Create a “Resilience Circle” with your “village” so you can join forces to help each other raise your resilient teens together.

​Think about your teen’s way of speaking and the things that concern them, the things they enjoy and spend their time on.  


Ask yourself which of the resilient skills on that list are developing in your teen.  


Then, the next time you see your teen DO OR SAY ANYTHING WITH EMOTION BEHIND IT, I want you to pay attention.  This is when you need to spring into action.  



On one level, you are listening to the thing they are emotional about. You’re listening to the story they are telling about the thing they are concerned about.  


On the next level, I want you to look for key resilient strengths you see in your teen and in what they are saying from the "My Resilient Teen" Strength Checklist.


These are the key resilient strengths that are underneath the concern they are voicing.  We are going to give voice to those underlying resilient strengths.


For instance, they might say,


“I’m so pissed at my friend.  They posted this thing about me that wasn’t true!” 


Now, you listen to that comment on two levels.  


First, you’ve heard their story about their being upset with their friend who publicly posted something about them that was untrue.  That is the first level to listen to.


Now here is the second focus I want you to work on.  On the second level, ask yourself, “what resilient strengths are they showing in their concern about this problem?” 


Often times a resilient strength is hidden in even what looks like a weakness or a problem. 


So, you are training your ears to listen for a strength where others might only see a weakness. 


This is different from what is commonly done with some forms of therapy or parenting. 


You are not asking what emotions they are experiencing.  You are not looking only to console them.  These are good things to do and are helpful.  But you are doing more than that. 


You are looking for the resilient strengths that underlie their concerns.






Thinking this way, you might then say,


“From what you’re saying, it really shows me how much you value honesty and fairness.  It sounds like you want to be honest and you want other people to be honest with you.  You value fairness and you expect other people to be fair as well.  Also, come to think of it, your reaction shows how much you value trust and respect in your friendships.  These are critical resilient personality strengths you value.   It means you must be capable of being a good friend.  I’m proud of you for that.”


Now, the problem hasn’t been solved yet.  But you have






The problem can now be solved applying those resilient strengths. 


So, you can ask, “how can you use those resilient strengths of honesty, fairness, trust and respect to deal with this problem?” 


Again, when you do this, you are changing the focus from your teen being a disempowered victim to their being an empowered person of character who is in control of their own life.


This is critically important!!!  Please read that again!!!


When you do this, be sure you are pointing to a real strength that is present right in front of you.


Be able to make the case for how you see that strength in the moment. 


Don’t make stuff up and try not to refer to a time in the past when they showed a resilient strength.  Keep it in the moment with what is right in front of you in this current story.


Do you see how this is different from most parenting advice? 






The offense against your teen is recognized, but they aren’t defined as a victim or helpless as a result of the offense.  


Their reaction is defined as demonstrating resilient strengths and not just as the pain of the betrayal and the unfairness of it all.    This is critical!


A big part of resilience is enduring through hardship.  What we call, “grit.”


To build grit, your teen needs to be able to see the value of their own internal strengths. 


This is critical since you want them to be able to use their resilient strengths to guide their inner lives and not have external forces control them.  There is so much more to resilience, but this is the foundation and of all resilience.


This powerful but simple exercise is like a seed.  Your teen can’t have the “tree” of resilience without planting this seed.  But a seed is not the whole grown tree.  The rest of the “tree” of resilience involves building REACHABLE GOALS toward which your teen can direct their resilient strengths.  It involves reinforcing HEALTHY MOTIVATION and “grit” to keep them pushing toward their goals when troubles come. And most importantly, it involves aligning their resilient strengths, their goals and their motivation toward nurturing and being nurtured by HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS that give life value and meaning.  This means they know how to be nurtured by and nurture the rest of your family and their world.


     Do this exercise with your teen as often as you can.  Over time, it will develop a sense of competence that all other resilient strengths are built upon.  As I said, this is not all that will make your teen resilient, but it is the absolutely necessary first step.  Without this first step, a sense of self-confidence, setting goals for life, having healthy motivation and healthy relationships all suffer.  Time is wasted on false starts and mistakes.  Worst of all, the ability to weather difficulties in life is severely diminished.



If you’re serious and want to take this to the next level


and super-charge your efforts to build resilience in your teen, you will get a lot out of the My Resilient Teen” online course I’m offering that is the same material that the Mayor’s Office in New York City asked me to implement with the young people there after 9/11.     This course will vastly improve your chances of raising a resilient teen.  Check it out here: “My Resilient Teen Parent Blueprint.” 

John Woodall, MD



Dr. John Woodall, the “Resilience Doctor.”


Dr. Woodall is a psychiatrist, formerly on the faculty of Harvard Medical School with special expertise in posttraumatic stress disorder, resilience and brain health. He was Director of the State Department refugee relief effort in the Balkans after the war there, and the Convener of the “Resilient Responses to Social Crisis Working Group” at Harvard University.  At the request of the Mayor’s Office of New York City, he developed and implemented a citywide resilience-building program for children after 9/11 that was also implemented in New Orleans and Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina and in northern Uganda.  Since the Newtown tragedy, he has launched a series of resilience building efforts there.  He is Medical Director of Synergy Health in Sandy Hook where he specializes in brain health, treatment resistant depression and resilience.

Organizations that have benefitted from Dr. Woodall’s resilience work:

P.S.  Remember, to start building the critically important first stage of resilience in your teen, in the text and video above you have a powerful and very simple Transformation Exercise called, “I See You.”  Do it today with your teen!  If you want, to build support for your efforts, share this page with your friends to build your “Resilience Circle” to help each other raise your resilient teens together. 


There is no development of resilience without the strengths found in the “I See You” exercise!


These powerful tools will greatly assist your efforts with your teen, download: 


  • the “My Resilient Teen” Parent Quiz,
  • the “3 Identities Survey” for your teen
  • and the “My Resilient Teen Strength Checklist.”


These will help you be successful with the “I See You” Transformation Exercise.


When you do, you can also check out the world class “My Resilient Teen” Resilience Blueprint parent training course that will sky-rocket your efforts to raise your resilient family to a dynamically new and highly effective level of resilience.  This course, which I developed at Harvard University, was implemented in New York City by invitation of the Mayor’s Office to build resilience in the City’s youth after 9/11.

© Copyrights by Dr. John Woodall, My Resilient Life.

All Rights Reserved.