Building Inner Strength

Keeping it together – and even growing stronger – during times of stress.

Happy family of parents, three children, and a grandfather

 Raising a family is stressful, but staying strong and flexible when things get tough can help you guide your family through challenges. Nurturing your own inner strength builds parental resilience. Parental resilience allows you to manage your feelings, solve problems with a clear head, take care of yourself and shelter your children, even when things are difficult.

Inner Strength can look like…

Pressing a pause button

Taking a breath or counting to 10 before you react

Hiking boot

Taking time to recharge

Detour sign

Staying flexible when things don’t go as planned

Hear From Parents

Listen as parents and grandparents share how the 5 Strengths are important for their families and why they want other families to understand them too. 

Ask Yourself…

There are no right answers. Thinking about these questions can help you understand your family’s strengths.

Do you know what grit is and why is important?
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Grit is stick-to-it-ness. It is the ability to identify what is important and stick with through ups and downs. Turns out that grit is really important to achieve success and children can learn how to be more “gritty”. What can a parent do to help their child develop grit? Have the courage to step back. Provide children with a variety of opportunities and experiences. Share stories, books, and examples of those who demonstrated grit. Follow your child’s interests and let them choose. (Developing grit must involve something they choose.) Allow them to get frustrated and even fail. Encourage them to think of mistakes and setbacks as learning opportunities. Accept that children’s interests can change and adapt. Finally, remember that you are the cheerleader and not the coach.
Are you providing opportunities for PCEs (Positive Childhood Experiences) for your child?
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Positive childhood experiences (PCEs) are specific types of relationships and things that children and adolescents do that are meaningful to them at the time and continue to benefit them throughout their lives. There are seven specific PCEs that are particularly helpful for building inner strength. They include being able to talk to family about their feelings, feeling understood by their family, having fun taking part in community traditions, feeling like they belong in high school, feeling supported by friends, feeling safe and protected by an adult in their home and having at least two grown-ups who are genuinely interested in them other than their parents. Knowing that these PCEs are important for your child’s future, can help you to provide opportunities to develop these PCEs as they grow.

Tips to Try

Parents tend to be so hard on themselves. One way to Build Inner Strength is to try to be easier on yourself. Download the Building Inner Strength PDF and try these tips:

  • Don’t compare yourself (or your kids) to others.
  • Remember, everyone has strengths.
  • Remember, everyone has weaknesses.
  • Many things that we believe are important at one point in our lives become less important in others.
  • Kindness is the greatest goal and gift. Be kind to others and also be kind to yourself.

Take Action

Once you understand the Five Strengths and why they are important, you will want to take action and  explore how you can build them in your own family. Take a look at the ideas and exercises below, or download the Building Inner Strength PDF to find more about what to look for, where to learn more and what you can do to support your inner strength.

Help Your Child Build Their Inner Strength

Resilience is the ability to weather the ups and downs of life. Help your child build their inner strength by considering the following …

Let your child want some things: Make sure their important needs are met, but not necessarily all the luxuries.

Teach your child to set goals: Help them identify what they want and think through how they might get it.

Teach patience: Help children practice by asking them to wait, when appropriate.

Give them responsibility: Having chores and responsibilities gives children a sense that they have something to give to the family, even when they don’t like them.

Encourage children to tackle their challenges: Knowing they can succeed gives them confidence.

Show children how to stick to limits and expectations: Persistence is a very important skill to learn.

Allow your child to lose or fail sometimes: This helps them learn how to keep going when things don’t go their way.

Activities to Boost Your Child's Inner Strength

Here are some fun activities that can help your child build their inner strength:

Let worries fly: Have your child write their worries on a piece of paper and turn them into paper airplanes that they fly away or help them burn the paper and turn them into smoke.

Create an accomplishments jar: Ask your child about one accomplishment each day, write it down and put it in the jar. At the end of the week go through the messages in the jar and talk about how they accomplished all these things.

Coloring feelings: Give your child a coloring page and crayons. Ask them to color in a way and use colors that show their feelings.

Play “How Would You Treat a Friend?”: When your child is feeling bad about themselves ask them how they would treat a friend feeling the same way? Remind them that they can be a friend, not just to others, but to themselves too.

Learn More

Resilient Wisconsin Website with resources to understand resilience and some strategies to build resilience.

Why “Me” Time Matters When It Comes to Your Happiness Enjoy this infographic with great info on why we need time to ourselves and where to get it.

How to Boost Resilience in Mid-Life A New York Times article outlines things adults can do that really work to
help them be more content and better able to withstand the ups and downs of life.

Taking Care of the Parent: Replacing Stress with Peace This pamphlet is full of ideas for parents for dealing with stress.

The Science and Practice of Self Regulation A webinar on what understanding our brains tells us about resilience, healing and self-regulation, including practical tips on how to calm yourself under stress.

VeryWell Mind and VeryWell Family These two online resources contain many articles about adult resilience and ways that parents can care for themselves.

Make A Joy List

Thinking about things we do that make us happy can release in our brain some of the same the same “feel-good” chemicals that flood it at the time of the actual experience. You can help to make yourself feel happier just by making a joy list. Then when you actually do something on the list, you will feel even better. Make a list of things you do that bring you joy.

  • Include things that make you happy.
  • Add things that you are passionate about. 
  • Think of things that give you energy.
  • Write down things that inspire you.

Once you have some things on your “Joy List” pick out one or two things that you can do next week .

Activities to Boost Family Strength

There are simple things you can do to help each member of your family feel connected, calm and loved. These feelings increase the inner strength of each person and for your family as a whole.

Share happy stories and memories: Remind each other of the positive experiences you have had together.

Make time to laugh and play together: Just take time to enjoy being with one another.

Point out things you like about each other: Help each member of your family feel good about themselves.   

Show each other affection: Share hugs, kisses, pats, squeezes, smiles, winks, fist bumps or whatever works for each member of your family.               


Living the Protective Factors Affirmation Cards 57 messages designed to spark creativity, provoke thought
and provide support when you are feeling overwhelmed or stuck as a parent.

What Are My Strengths? and What Went Well? Use these activity sheets to guide you in taking a positive perspective.

Take Care of Yourself and Goals for Better Health These reflection exercises can help with focus on health
and well-being.

Dealing with Stress This worksheet can be used to develop a concrete plan for managing your stress.

HOPE (Healthy Outcome from Positive Experiences) Interactive Learning Module Learn how positive experiences help strengthen young people in challenging circumstances.

Resilience Skills Sheets Enhance your understanding of different aspects of inner strength and how to build upon them.

Resilient Wisconsin is a statewide initiative to improve the conditions in which people work, live, and grow through trauma-informed resources, tools, and education. Go to Resilient Wisconsin to learn more. Resilient Wisconsin is a initiative of the Department of Health Services.