Everyday Strong: Building Resilience In Kids Starts With Safety, Connection, Confidence

Jul 19, 2019, 6:35 PM | Updated: Mar 10, 2021, 6:47 pm

UTAH COUNTY – Intermountain Healthcare’s Dr. Matt Swenson believes parents have more power than they realize to care for the emotional and mental health of their children.

He said parents can build resilience by fostering safety, connection, and confidence in your kids, or other children around you.

He’s partnering with the United Way of Utah County to introduce a new framework for emotional health. It’s called Everyday Strong.

News specialist Dan Spindle joined him to learn about the approach. He asked Swenson: “How do you advise parents who are saying, ‘Boy, I’m frustrated. I’m not sure how to talk to my children about these problems they’re having?’”

“You can’t have an agenda other than safety. That’s your only agenda,” Matt Swenson explained. He said it starts with the basics.

He referred back to a pyramid most Psychology 101 classes teach. It’s called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and prioritizes basic human needs including physical needs, safety needs, connection needs and confidence needs.

Swenson said many parents often wonder: “How do I make my child feel safe? How do I give them an experience with emotional safety meaning that they feel safe to talk?”

He said safety goes beyond feeling physically protected. He said children may be afraid of getting in trouble or letting someone down. Swenson said it’s important for parents to help their children feel safe to explore or even fail.

He said the best way to talk with a teen is by sometimes just listening. “Imagine literally, that you’re putting duct tape over your mouth, and you’re just going Mm… Hmm… Hmm,’” he described.

Swenson said creating a safe environment allows you to better connect.

“After you’ve read a story, when you’re eating dinner, take an extra moment to just really look in their eyes and smile, and say, ‘I just love hearing about your life,’” he suggested.

He said kids just want to be seen. “To see their struggle, and to see their life and their successes and I think parents can do that to say, ‘I’m watching,’” he said.

Swenson said safety and connection allow a child to start feeling confident. Parents can foster this by expressing trust or reassurance.

Connecting through apologizing, writing a note, playing, laughing, or asking questions are all good ways at showing interest in your child’s life.

He said there are certain phrases a parent can use such as, “You’ve got this! Be patient with yourself. You’re working hard. I know the kind of person you are!”

Swenson said that time of language is encouraging and resonates better with a child. “It’s not a lecture. It’s not moralizing. It’s not more instruction,” he said.

Swenson said once a child’s needs are met, they’re great at solving many of their own problems.

“If every person who had any interaction with a child throughout the day woke up every morning and said, ‘What am I doing today to deliberately and thoughtfully create a sense of safety, connection and confidence in the children in my life?’ I think we’d make a big dent in the problem,” Swenson said.

The Everyday Strong program isn’t just for families. Orem city is also jumping on board as the first Everyday Strong City.

Orem city leaders said their responsibilities extend beyond collecting taxes and paving roads. They want every city employee who interacts with kids to have in-person training to make sure kids feel safe, connected, and confident.

This includes the fitness and rec center staff, lifeguards at the pool, and librarians.

Everyday Strong director Michaelann Bradley said the Alpine, Nebo, and Provo school districts are also adopting the program.

“Not just the teachers and the principles, but the best drivers [and] the cafeteria workers, who can have an actual impact by connecting with these kids.,” she said.

For more information, visit check out Everydaystrong.org to request a handbook for more ideas on how to better connect with your kids. You can also watch an hour long presentation by Dr. Matt Swenson on the KSL TV app.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Everyday Strong


EveryDay Strong Empowers Parents To Help Kids With Anxiety, Depression

EveryDay Strong takes a new approach to mental health that empowers parents to help their kids with anxiety and depression. Watch this special presentation from child psychiatrist Matt Swenson, MD to learn more.
3 years ago
Dr. Matt Swenson talks with KSL TV's Dan Spindle...
Dan Spindle, KSL TV

Child Psychiatrist Shares The Best Ways For Parents To Get Their Kids To Open Up

Utah children and teens are grappling with intense circumstances surrounding depression, anxiety and even suicide. A Utah psychiatrist hopes to gives adults the tools they need to help.
4 years ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Everyday Strong: Building Resilience In Kids Starts With Safety, Connection, Confidence