How you can nurture and encourage teenagers to become mentally strong

How you can nurture and encourage teenagers to become mentally strong

How much support did you have around you when you were a teenager? What did that scaffolding look like, feel like and sound like? Who were the people who provided that scaffolding? What qualities or characteristics did they display in their relationship with you?

Perhaps you need some positive signs to look out for?

While working in my home office a while ago, I looked out to see a painter – probably in his 30s – sitting on the scaffolding opposite our apartment taking a selfie!

A quick adjustment of the T-shirt, fingers repositioning the hair, seated upright – mobile phone at the ready, a smile and click! Great selfie which was quickly sent to a friend, a loved one?
Four storeys up. Beautiful sea view with that perfect autumn day framed by a cloudless, brilliant blue sky.

The scaffolding was secure, strong, supportive, enabling this special moment in a painter’s day to occur. He felt safe.

That got me thinking about the signs of a mentally strong teenager and the scaffolding that supports him/her so that he/she would always feel safe and secure. I have spent many months collating years and years of adolescent research and, more recently, linking this research to the latest adolescent neuroscience research. This research has reiterated how important it is for youth to have significant adults as their non-judgmental Cheerleaders to walk alongside them during a critically important season of their lives while their brains are developing.

15 signs of mentally strong teenagers

As these meaningful relationships are developed and the significant adult takes on an encouraging and nurturing role, here are 15 proven signs of mentally strong teenagers to look out for. They have been a great help to me over the years when I have worked with teenagers as a teacher, mentor and coach – as well as being a parent!


  1. Know the importance of feeling lovable, capable and competent and the power of positive peer pressure.
  2. Know how to positively manage their time and remain active and involved, understanding the importance of having nine hours sleep every night for healthy brain development.
  3. Display self-control and a positive attitude, able to accept and authentically express their feelings.
  4. Park to the side issues they are unable to control – with the support of a trusted adult where necessary – so they can keep moving forward.
  5. Learn from their mistakes, try not to repeat them and keep looking positively into the future;
  6. Never give up! Failure is a swear word in their vocabulary and they don’t swear! They have the courage to keep on keeping on.
  7. Know that the world does not owe them a living; they will determine their own future as they accept responsibility for the direction in which they wish to travel forward.
  8. Work hard and consistently at living a simplified, healthy and balanced lifestyle.
  9. Are prepared to develop a strong work ethic with the knowledge that patience and perseverance will help them achieve their goals.
  10. Celebrate the successes and positive achievements of others, while understanding the importance of selflessly and humbly serving their local and global community wherever the opportunities arise.
  11. Appreciate that they have the power to determine and choose their future.
  12. Value and appreciate the importance of time on their own every day – to reflect, plan, relax, step back from problems and look at them from a helicopter view, spend time with nature, exercise and so on.
  13. Display a consistent and responsible use of social media and technology in general.
  14. Are open-minded and willingly embrace change and non life-threatening risks.
  15. Deal with the facts and avoid assumptions or generalising and retain a sense of humour and a sense of fun.

Nurturing these positive signs of development will ensure that youth have the strong scaffolding of supportive networks around them so, if they do have a wobble or stumble, they have people they respect and trust who will reach out a hand and help them up and set them off on their ongoing life journey chasing their dreams. They become resilient young men and women who live life with a positive purpose.

They become painters of a different type, able to paint a vision of who they want to become as they strive to be the best they can be.

About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organizer, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in New Zealand and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can see his short daily mentoring tips on Twitter @million2016coxy or on Facebook (where you are able to join a closed mentoring group) or contact him through his Mentoring Matters website  Robin’s free Mentoring Matters daily podcasts (each podcast between 1.5 and 3 minutes), containing hundreds of tips for anyone working with young people, are available here.