Stress is a life event or situation that causes an imbalance in an individual’s life. There is no escaping it! We all have stress, whether good or bad, throughout our lives. Even our children will experience both good stress, learning a new skill or playing in an exciting game, and bad stress, distress such as a death of a beloved pet or family member, a fight with a friend or a change in your family structure.
At times, adults, as well as children, will not have the coping strategies to deal with a particular stressor.
The two most common signs of stress in children are a change in their behavior and a regression of behavior. It is important to remember that children who live in supportive environments and develop a wide range of coping strategies will become more resilient.
Some factors that support resiliency are: a healthy relationship with at least one parent or close adult, well-developed social and problem-solving skills, an ability to act independently with a sense of purpose and future, at least one coping strategy, a sense of positive self-esteem and personal responsibility a religious commitment, an ability to focus attention and special interests and hobbies.
When our children are stressed they need us to support them in the following ways:
• Notice them: Are there more quarrels, headaches, complaints? Notice and acknowledge this.
• Praise: Be positive and specific.
• Acknowledge feelings: Let them know it is OK to feel angry, scared, lonely, etc. Help them name feelings and give them words to express their feelings.
• Help them view the situation more positively: Shame can be very harmful to self-esteem.
• Structure activities for cooperation, not competition: This allows everyone their own pace and improved social skills.
• Involve everyone in a child’s life to support them
• Host regular safe talks: Help children know that sharing their stress with you does not stress you out.
Additionally, the adults in their lives should: model their own healthy coping skills and highlight their own room to grow; be proactive about helping the child be resilient and develop coping strategies; use stories and books to illustrate to your child that they are not alone; use art to express feelings; monitor media that can be worrisome; use logical consequences and encouragement in response to poor decisions; discuss drugs and alcohol early and often; and limit overscheduling.
It is important for all of us to develop good coping skills, but it is especially important to help our children develop good coping skills early and know what helps to soothe them so that when they need to access these strategies they have choices readily available.
Some examples of coping skills for children can include:
• Develop a skill that can serve as a sense of pride and self-esteem and as an outlet.
• Physical exercise and/or work can provide a physical outlet.
• Sensory activities: Play-Doh, clay, running, swimming, jumping, squishy balls … find what helps
• Laughter: silly books, songs, faces, notes
• Create a quiet, soothing space
• Relaxation and deep breathing techniques
• Conflict resolution strategies/problem solving strategies
What do you think about these tips? Do you have any of your own to offer? Tell us in the comments.