HomeLearning CentreMentor Resources - ResiliencePart 1: Why Foster Resilience in Children and Youth?

Resilience - Part 1

Resilience: A Practical Guide for Mentors

As a volunteer mentor, understanding resilience and its practical implementation will assist you and your Little Sister or Little Brother in building a strong, sustainable, resilient match. In this module, you'll read about relatively simple yet very important ways to enhance your mentee’s self esteem and support their ability to cope with life’s challenges and opportunities.


Why Foster Resilience in Children and Youth?

Studies of resilience that have followed children over many years tell us that all children have the capacity to adapt to life’s challenges when they have the support and resources they need. However, in today’s society children and youth face some challenges that are well beyond their capacity to cope with alone. That’s when mentors who help children navigate and negotiate effectively become especially important.

What potential challenges might your Little Brother or Little Sister face? Let’s have a look at some facts:

  •  There are 14 times as many divorced Canadians as there were 30 years ago. As a result, 1 child in 5 grows up in a family headed by a single parent.
  •  An additional 10% of children live either in a blended family or with adults who are not their biological parent.
  •  Over 70% of families with young children have two working parents who are clearly less available to children than they were in the past.
  • Parents and children are increasingly separated geographically from their extended family, especially grandparents − a traditional support for both parents and children.
  • 1 in 5 Canadian children are living in poverty.
  • Statistics Canada projects that, by 2031, almost one-half of the population over the age of 15 will be foreign-born or have at least one foreign-born parent. The number of visible minorities will double and will make up the majority of the population of cities in Canada.

There can be serious stressors in the lives of young people: marital breakdown; changes in family makeup; moves to new schools or neighbourhoods; separation from traditional sources of family support; uncertainty with regard to availability of parents, and sometimes with regard to the necessities of life, including food, housing, and physical safety; and unpredictable and changing expectations to carry adult responsibilities, including caring for younger siblings or becoming the primary housekeeper. Some children will cope well with such unstable conditions, while others start to experience serious problems.

Of course, your mentee may not be dealing with any of these challenges. However, it is important to know that no matter how burdensome the risks a child faces, a mentor can change the life trajectory of a child or youth from one fraught with danger and problems to one that shows resilience and the positive psychosocial growth that comes with it.

Key Points to Remember

  • Relationships matter a great deal to children and youth who are exposed to adversity.
  • Problem behaviours often make sense to young people when they have very few other opportunities to express themselves or get what they need.
  • As a mentor, you are able to influence a child's environment, fostering resilience in your menteeiv.
  • When bolstering resilience, the emphasis becomes not only helping children beat the odds stacked against them, but also changing the odds to make it more likely that vulnerable populations of children succeed in lifev.