Building resilience skills in SOF teens
Teens in SOF families face a number of unique challenges, such as living with many unknowns.  Resilience—the ability to grow and thrive in the face of such challenges—can help SOF teens cope with whatever comes along.

By: Family - Relationships - 5/11/2017

Teens in SOF families face a number of unique challenges, such as living with many unknowns.  Resilience—the ability to grow and thrive in the face of such challenges—can help SOF teens cope with whatever comes along.  Resilience skills can be learned. One resilience skill uses the ABC model. "ABC" stands for Activating events, Beliefs, and Consequences.  It can help teens understand how their beliefs and thoughts connect with their moods and behaviors.

Using The ABC Model With Your Teen

Activating events trigger thoughts or interpretations.  These events can be positive or negative, big or small.  Your teen's interpretations of them make up his or her thoughts and beliefs.  These thoughts and beliefs drive consequences—they impact mood, emotions, physiology, and behaviors.

The ABC model can be applied in 4 steps:

  1. Be aware of the activating event your teen is experiencing and how he or she is interpreting it.

  2. Gently challenge the interpretation and beliefs and encourage your teen to think more productively about the event:  if the emotions and reactions your teen is experiencing are unhelpful.

  3. Offer examples of how to productively reframe or reinterpret the event.

  4. Explore with your teen how sticking with the productive reframe of the event might change his or her feelings about the event—altering the consequences.

Two examples below illustrate how to use the 4-step ABC model.  The first is about a boy, Alex, who didn't make the swim team.  The second example is about a girl, Shauna, who reacted strongly to information about a military helicopter crash.


  1. Your son Alex tried out for the swim team and didn't make it—the activating event.  Since finding out, he's been withdrawn, uncommunicative, and sad.  He has made statements such as "I'm no good at sports" and "I won't ever make the swim team", and you observe that he is feeling bad about himself.

  2. Gently challenge your son's interpretation of the trigger (not making the swim team) by saying "Alex, you seem pretty down since finding out about the swim team.  That's natural—it's a disappointment.  If you're feeling bad about yourself because of that, maybe we need to rethink what happened".

  3. Offer productive reinterpretations:

    • "Maybe the other kids had a lot more experience and practice than you did, so now you just need to focus on practicing for next time.".

    • "Perhaps the coaches thought you were quite skilled but they only had so many spaces on the team, and you were just on the cusp.".

    • "You made the soccer team last year and had a great season.  You have a good shot at making that team again.".

  4. Connect the reinterpreted beliefs with potential feelings and consequences:

    • "If you decide to focus on practicing more, how might that make you feel instead?  Perhaps hopeful, driven, and determined.".

    • "If you focus on the skills you already have, how might that make you feel instead?  Potentially competent, proud, and energized.".

    • "If you think about the successes you had at soccer, how might that make you feel instead?"  Perhaps skilled, capable, and accomplished.".


You and your daughter Shauna are watching television together.  A clip for upcoming news comes on, after which Shauna gets upset, runs to her bedroom, and slams the door.  The clip reported that a military helicopter crashed overseas and 7 service members were killed.  You suspect Shauna is upset because, while neither you nor your spouse are deployed, your husband is TDY on a training evolution.  Shauna seeing the news clip plus your husband's current TDY status is the activating event.

Gently approach your daughter and ask how she's thinking about the news report.  What are her beliefs about it?  If her interpretations are inaccurate or her emotions unhelpful, you can encourage her to reassess her interpretation of the trigger (the news about the helicopter crash) by saying "Shauna, I noticed you became really upset.  Was it because of the news of that helicopter crash?  Let's talk about how you're thinking about that.".

Offer reinterpretations and information, if necessary:

  • "Hearing that news story was scary.  Perhaps you got upset because you're thinking of your dad?  Remember he's on a training evolution in California.  He's safe and rarely rides in helicopters. Let's send him a text and ask him to call when he has a minute so you can talk with him.".

  • "Hearing stories like that can make me pretty nervous too.  But then I remember that Dad and his team protect one another; they exercise caution and safety in everything they do.  They take care for each other and will always do their best to make sure they don't get injured.".

  • "It's never easy to hear that any service member was killed.  Let's think what we can do for their families.  For now, it's important to remember that this situation is rare and your dad is safe.".

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