Challenges facing young people

Some of the challenges facing children and young people in the twentyfirst century are:

• bullying

• self-esteem

• pressure of distorted media images/unrealistic comparisons

• celebrity culture

• studying

• exam pressures

• career choices

• friendships and relationships

• peer pressure

• changing family dynamics (divorced parents, single parents, blended families, etc.).

Although some of these challenges facing children today will also have been around for previous generations, there does tend to be a general feeling that there are more pressures for young people today, which is exacerbated by the rate of technology changes and an increase in family breakups.

How can mental toughness help the development of young people?

Parents play a key role in developing mental toughness in their children which will help them cope better with the above challenges and help them to develop confidence and try new things in life.

The table below illustrates the four components of mental toughness, the issues that young people face, how parents can help develop their mental toughness to cope and the positive outcomes they can expect to achieve:

Four C's Issues faced How parents can help Expected outcomes Challenge Exam pressures

Course work Interviews First job Attentional control Goal setting Confidence Visualising success Exam success Developing

proactive strategies to cope with stress Commitment Sticking to

revision Drop out of

college courses Project

management Time management Support/

encouragement Complete studies Work effectively without get-

ting burnt out Overcome

setbacks Control Self-worth Self-esteem Emotional

control Managing stress Listening effectively

Praise Empathy

Helping them to relax/manage stress

Understanding and managing feelings

General wellbeing— diet/fitness/ stress Choose a job/ career that they want and that they find fulfilling

Feel like they are making a difference

Appreciate the value of things

Maturity and emotional intelligence


Four C's Issues faced How parents can help Expected outcomes Confidence Bullying

Peer pressure (e.g., drinking, smoking, drugs)

Celebrity culture

Developing friendships/ relationships

Managing studies

Coping in a new job Keeping a diary/ journal of success and achievement

Praise and recognition

Developing assertiveness

Visualising success Positive messages

and being aware of the “labels” they give their children (sometimes unconsciously) Lower reported incidents of perceived bullying

Bounceback from setbacks

Overcome obstacles

Confidence to not be drawn into undesired behaviours by others

Parent's own mental toughness

In order for parents to support their children's development and mental toughness, it is imperative that they also look after themselves. The analogy would be on a flight, where passengers are instructed to put on their own oxygen masks before trying to help others.

Parents need to look after themselves in terms of their general fitness, wellbeing and energy levels, and this is especially important when there are the demands of work to manage as well as children.

By developing their own levels of self-awareness, parents can understand how they influence their children and be conscious of the pressures and expectations that they are putting on their children. It is about finding the balance between encouraging and supporting them to achieve their best, but without adding to the feelings of pressure and stress.

Parents need to have their support networks and ensure they take time out to relax and unwind. They are also a key role model in creating behaviours in children and need to be aware of the examples they are setting. By developing this awareness they are in a better position
to break the cycles of “bad” parenting that can be passed down from generation to generation.


In the past we've spoken about parent's intuition, mother's wisdom, and fatherly advice, however with our busy lives in the twenty-first century and with the conflicting opinions from various parenting experts, we have lost sight of some of the fundamental needs that we need to provide for our children as part of their development stages.

Mental toughness provides us with an excellent framework to enable us to take those sound ideas and common senses and apply them to the most important aspects of family life—that of raising happy, healthy children to be the best they can and ultimately live a fulfilling life as adults who are capable of managing day to day stresses and challenges.

Having a family is probably the most important life-changing experience and children are our most treasured “possessions”. However, despite our best intentions, sometimes the way we raise and interact with them, we don't always achieve our desired outcomes, and can actually sometimes be adding to the stress of our children if we have high expectations of them but without the support and guidance to get them there.

Mental toughness, and its associated interventions, provides us with a great reminder of the techniques we can bring to develop our children and enable them to reach their true potential in life. It allows parents to take a step back from living in the moment of child raising, to reflect on what they are doing well, and where they can continue to help make a positive difference.

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