Helping Your Students Develop Emotional Resilience & Better Mental Health

The National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing study reveals that almost half of young women aged 16-24 have dealt with mental health issues in the past year.

May 13, 2024


Tomorrow Woman

At Tomorrow Woman, we work with teenage girls across Australia to build their emotional resilience and achieve better mental health.

According to this national study, almost half of 16-24 year-old girls and women have struggled with a mental illness in the last twelve months. So clearly, more support is badly needed.

But you don’t need to wait for a Tomorrow Woman workshop to teach emotional resilience. There are many ways schools can help build self-confidence in teens.

What Are Emotional Resilience And Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional resilience and intelligence are key to building self-confidence in teenagers. Let’s break down these two concepts.

Understanding Emotional Resilience

Emotional resilience is the ability to cope with challenging situations without becoming overwhelmed.

This doesn’t mean you're unaffected by tough situations. Emotional resilience allows us to bounce back from difficult moments, not avoid them. Girls need to learn that feeling a range of emotions—even strong, uncomfortable ones—is normal and healthy.

Resilience is a skill, not an inherent personality trait. This means it can be learned. It just takes some time and practice.

Understanding Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence goes hand in hand with building resilience. It’s our ability to understand how we feel, manage those emotions and communicate them in a healthy way.

Some people think emotional intelligence and resilience mean ignoring your emotions. But that’s not true. Girls need to engage with their feelings so that they can manage them and live more authentic lives.

Students Have A Better Future When They Learn Emotional Resilience

When we talk about building teenagers’ emotional resilience, we’re not just talking about recovering from a bad test score. We help girls develop the strength to handle whatever life might throw their way—and we know that life can throw some really difficult things at teenage girls.

We already know that girls begin to speak less in their teenage years. They lose their self-confidence and give up on dreams. Many also experience physical violence, mental illness, racism and homophobia.

But there are reasons to feel hopeful. Studies show that emotionally resilient teenagers have significantly improved mental health.

And this is something we see in our workshops. Girls learn to trust themselves, to know their self-worth and to stay positive. They speak up more and decide to chase their ambitions.

5 Strategies Schools Can Use To Help Build Resilience In Teens

1. Acknowledge Emotions

We all know that teenagers—just like us adults—experience intense emotions. But girls are conditioned to believe that they shouldn’t have negative feelings, such as anger or sadness.

They can end up trying to shut down these emotions. And this makes it impossible for them to understand their feelings, let alone handle them.

As teachers, you can help girls realise that it’s okay to have strong feelings. You can do this through:

  • Identifying Emotions: Avoid criticising girls for being angry or telling them to “cheer up”.
  • Expressing Emotions: Create spaces for exploring emotions. This could be through classroom discussions, talking with a school counsellor, or creative activities like journalling, art and exercise.
  • Talking About Emotions: Help your students learn to share difficult emotions without censoring themselves or disrespecting other people.

2. Teach Problem-Solving

Your students will develop greater emotional resilience when they believe that they can always find a way.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Teens face complex challenges that can seem insurmountable, especially if they’re trying to tackle them alone.

In our workshops, we hear girls speak about how their problems are overwhelming. They share how this affects their self-esteem and causes them to give up on hopes and hobbies. But in telling us this, they often realise that they have more options than they thought.

You can help your students come to the same realisation. Teach them to break down their problems into smaller chunks and set achievable goals. Ask them to identify alternative options and list people they can go to for support.

Encourage your students to treat failures as new opportunities. When things don’t work out, they need to know that they can reassess and try again.

3. Cultivate Positive Thinking

When girls talk about their challenges in our workshops, one of the things we do is help them adopt a positive outlook.

But, be careful here. A positive outlook doesn’t mean shutting down negative emotions. It’s also not just the belief that everything will turn out okay.

Positive thinking is self-belief. It’s the knowledge that we are powerful, that we have value and that we are enough. Even when things turn out badly or we feel down, positive thinking tells us we’ll get through this.

Focus on teaching girls these four pillars of positive thinking:

  • Having self-compassion and avoiding harsh self-criticism
  • Challenging negative thought patterns and countering them with realistic optimism
  • Practising gratitude
  • Celebrating wins, no matter how small

4. Develop Support Networks

Many teenage girls have internalised the belief that they shouldn’t say what they need. But as we demonstrate in our workshops, being emotionally resilient doesn’t mean overcoming every situation alone.

Make sure your students know who they can go to for support. This includes their friends, teachers, school counsellors, family members and doctors.

Emphasise that asking for support isn't demanding or burdensome. Instead, it’s a sign of strength and self-respect.

5. Run Teenage Confidence-Building Courses

Building self-confidence in teenagers can be challenging. But just like your teenage students, schools don’t have to do this alone.

Tomorrow Woman—and our partner organisation, Tomorrow Man - run workshops for students and teachers. We provide teachers with the tools for better conversations with students. And, we help girls develop self-confidence, leadership and resilience.

85% of teenage girls say that our workshops left them “more confident to be their true, authentic self amongst their peers, family, and friends”.

Find out more about our workshops.

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