Helping children deal with stress and worries will help them grow into more well-rounded and resilient adults. Just like adults, children have to deal with situations where they might worry about things that are causing them stress. School and exams, friends moving away, or losing their favourite belongings are some of the main things that kids worry about. Just like adults, it’s important for children to learn healthy coping mechanisms and strategies to help them learn how to work through their worries, reduce stress in their lives, and bounce back from challenging times. Developing these strategies in childhood is important for kids to become adults who are mentally healthy and resilient.
Why Coping Skills are Important
Coping skills are the things that we do and think when we need to get through difficult situations, which are an unavoidable part of life for everybody. From children aged four to six years old, difficult situations might often be things that adults would not worry about such as saying goodbye to a parent when heading to school or nursery, trying something new, or wanting to have a group of friends. As children get older, they might be faced with larger worries such as performing well in school and passing exams.
Giving kids the support that they need as young as possible to develop the skills to deal with these situations and cope will help them with adult problems later in life and reduce the risk of developing mental health concerns throughout both childhood and adulthood.
How Parents Can Help Children Develop Healthy Coping Strategies
Parents can help children develop healthy coping strategies by discouraging the unhelpful ones such as tantrums, anger, or blaming themselves. Parents should encourage helpful strategies such as talking about it, staying calm, asking for help, and apologizing when needed.
Encouraging children to talk about whatever is worrying them is a particularly helpful strategy that will foster more conversations about coping. Acknowledging the child’s feelings and talking about the different strategies that are available to deal with a situation in a healthy way will generally get a positive reaction and help the child come up with some ideas for what they might be able to do. For example, a child who is worried about school might want to try some resources for students to help with exam preparation and homework. Children who feel comfortable and safe to come and talk to their parents and other key adults in their lives about their worries will typically be better able to cope.
Modelling Healthy Coping Strategies
As a parent, one of the best things that you can do to help your child learn how to cope with stressful and challenging situations in a healthy way is to model this behaviour yourself. Of course, it’s easy for anybody to slip up and sometimes unhealthy coping mechanisms can take over if you have gotten used to doing things this way. However, as a parent, it’s important to have an understanding of how this can impact your child, and simply being able to recognize and talk about unhealthy coping mechanisms for what they are can be an ideal start.
If you are worried about your own coping strategies and how they might be affecting your children, getting therapy can be the first step towards changing this and creating a happier life for yourself where you find it easier to cope with stress, with benefits for both you and your family.
Stressful and challenging situations happen to all of us, and they often start in childhood. While as a parent you can’t make sure that nothing ever stresses your child out, you can help them learn healthier coping strategies for life.