Help them build resilience

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This phase has your child in a transition. Their bodies are changing physically and hormonally. They are hyper-aware of themselves and their peers. They navigate between who they want to be and who others want them to be.

Fifth graders can be difficult to understand at times. They love you one minute but ignore you the next. They play with childhood toys but want to be treated like an adult. They crave your affirmation but are embarrassed when you give it. Your fifth grader is still a kid, but you’re starting to get glimpses of what life as a teenager might be.

If you want to get their attention, try making it a competition. Your fifth grader feels like he/she has a “lifetime” of experience, that may make them feel unstoppable in this phase. They are ready to prove themselves and ready for the world to take notice. They also lack the wisdom and awareness that might slow them down. They can’t wait to show you how smart and fast and strong they really are.

Fifth graders often project a confident exterior while hiding their fears and insecurities. They may verbalize “I’ve got this” while wrestling with self-doubt. This is an incredible opportunity to build resilience in your child. Helping them with developing grit to overcome tough challenges will serve them for the rest of their life. Take advantage of their natural stubbornness to guide them toward persistence in achieving tasks and solving problems. Every fifth grader needs to fail at something so they can know what it takes to pick themselves up and keep going. Nothing builds character, grit, and perseverance like failure.


  • Physically: They continue to improve in speed, force, and body control. They need time outdoors and physical challenges. They may show early signs of puberty (increased growth spurts) and need 10-11 hours of sleep at night.
  • Mentally: They are skilled at memorizing facts. They may enjoy collecting things. They enjoy problem solving, are beginning to understand abstract concepts, and like to explain things.
  • Emotionally: They may be easily embarrassed about their body. They want to be seen as independent and mature.
  • Socially: They enjoy cooperative and group games. They desire more personal privacy. They may be interested in/curious about gender relationships (but rarely admit it). They can have more in-depth conversations.


"Can I get through hard things?"

They need to experience moderate failure and consequences to build resilience.  


Take these actions to build resilience in your fifth grader:

  1. Print out this Growth Mindset Chart and display the images somewhere the child will regularly see. Internalize and memorize the mantras on the Growth Mindset posters. Take every opportunity to reinforce these mantras in your child’s everyday experiences.
  2. Have honest conversations with your fifth grader about your own personal failures and mistakes. Share at least 2 specific situations in which you failed. Explain how you may (or may not) have worked through that failure. Explain the benefits of failure for character development. Your fifth grader needs to hear that others are imperfect and that failure, in the long run, works to their advantage.
  3. Write a letter to your fifth grader affirming their effort and reassuring them of their resilience and their potential. Be as specific and as encouraging as possible, filling the letter with words of kindness. You might include examples of times you’ve seen them overcome adversity. Encourage other mentors and healthy adult influences to also write a letter. Once your fifth grader has read those letters, have them write a letter to their future self, to serve as a reminder that they can do hard things. (It can be a long note or a short and simple one that says: “I know things are tough, but you can do this because you’ve achieved challenging goals before. And you can do it again.” Each time they feel tempted to give up, tell them to go back to the letters. They will motivate your child to push forward and persist.)
  4. Teach your fifth grader about famous failures. Kids gain confidence and perform better when they learn that many successful stories begin with failure. As a family, watch this TEDxYouth talk by Carson Byblow, a fifth-grade student who explains famous failures and personal experiences of the difficulties he experienced in life.