Helping Children Cope with Stress
Children and adolescents often struggle when it comes to coping effectively with stress. Due to their age and lack of life experience they have not yet developed the coping skills that adults possess.
Young people can be particularly overwhelmed when their stress is connected to a traumatic event—like a natural disaster (tornados, wildfires), family loss, school shootings, or community violence. Parents and educators can take steps to provide stability and support that help young people positively cope and adjust.
Tips for Parents
It is natural for children to worry, especially when scary or stressful events happen in their lives. Talking with children about these stressful events and monitoring what children watch or hear about the events can help put frightening information into a more balanced context.
Some suggestions to help children cope are:
1. Maintain a normal routine.
Helping children wake up, go to sleep, and eat meals at regular times provide them a sense of stability. Going to school and participating in typical after-school activities also provide stability and extra support.
2. Talk, listen, and encourage expression.
Create opportunities to have your children talk, but do not force them. Listen to your child’s thoughts and feelings and share some of yours. After a traumatic event, it is important for children to feel like they can share their feelings and to know that their fears and worries are understandable. Keep these conversations going by asking them how they feel in a week, then in a month, and so on.
3. Watch and listen.
Be alert for any change in behavior. Are children sleeping more or less? Are they withdrawing from friends or family? Are they behaving in any way out of the ordinary? Any changes in behavior, even small changes, may be signs that the child is having trouble coming to terms with the event and may support.
Stressful events can challenge a child’s sense of physical and emotional safety and security. Take opportunities to reassure your child about his or her safety and well-being and discuss ways that you, the school, and the community are taking steps to keep them safe.
5. Connect with others.
Make an on-going effort to talk to other parents and your child’s teachers about concerns and ways to help your child cope.
You do not have to deal with problems alone-it is often helpful for parents, schools, and health professionals to work together to support and ensuring the well-being of all children in stressful times.
If you or someone you know needs immediate help, please contact the one of the following crisis hotlines:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-888-628-9454 for Spanish-speaking callers)
Child-Help USA: 1-800-422-4453 (24 hour toll free)
Youth Mental Health Line: 1-888-568-1112