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Build resilience in young people to prevent alcohol misuse

It can be tempting for young people to use alcohol or drugs to help them through tough challenges.

If they do, they miss the chance to develop coping skills, such as:

  • learning to identify their emotions
  • sharing problems
  • asking for help
  • learning ways of dealing with unpleasant emotions

Coping skills

Coping skills can help them to cope better and build confidence and resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from challenges and cope with them.

Without these skills, they might also find it harder to cope emotionally later in life.

Young people who drink heavily may experience greater levels of depression and anxiety. Alcohol is also linked to self-harm.

How to build resilience

Children build resilience when they are helped to cope with difficult situations.

Resilience skills need to be practiced and can be used throughout their lives. They can help them to recognise difficult situations in the past they have coped with.

Children who are resilient are less likely to develop problems with alcohol or drugs.

They tend to:

  • have better self-esteem
  • do better in school
  • have better relationships

Being aware of feelings

Strong feelings can be overwhelming for young people. Anxiety or sadness can make them feel powerless. Hurt and resentment can make them feel angry or even violent.

Help your child by asking them regularly how they feel and help them to recognise their feelings.

Learning to recognise and name feelings is a skill they can learn. This can help them to manage their emotions better.

Understand problems

Understanding problems means taking time to find out what is causing a problem. It makes it easier to find a solution, accept things you cannot change and avoid blaming yourself.

Give yourself time to think

Encourage your child not to act on impulse and to think about options. Also, encourage them to think about what might happen as a result of each choice before they act.

Show empathy

Empathy is understanding and being sensitive to someone else's feelings or thoughts.

Encourage your child to think about how other people might be feeling or why they are behaving in a certain way.

Believe in their ability

Show your child you have faith in their ability to get through difficult times.

You can:

  • remind them of their strengths
  • support them to solve their problems and to be successful, rather than doing things for them
  • praise them when they do well or manage to overcome adversity

Stay hopeful

Being optimistic does not mean pretending things are different from how they are. It means finding a way to be hopeful and look for positives.

Remind your child that difficult times will pass. Remind them of the disappointments they have overcome in the past. Sometimes when things go wrong or do not go to plan, something good and unexpected can happen.

Ask for help

Asking for what we want or need, or being able to say how we are feeling and why, are powerful skills.

Tell them how important it is to tell someone and get help if they feel they’re not coping.

Advise them to talk to a friend or trusted adult, if they do not want to talk to you.

Let them know about some of the places they can go to for help.

Getting support

Teenline provides confidential chat for teenagers who just want to talk to someone.

Childline provides a 24-hour helpline and an online chat service for children up to the age of 18.

Page last reviewed: 23 August 2022
Next review due: 23 August 2025