Helping Children Cope in a Stressful World

Guest post by Jane B. Streit, Ph.D.

Few children make it through the early years without experiencing a potentially traumatic event. Big things like abuse and the loss of a loved one are horrible things for anyone to live through, but even “smaller” events like taunting from classmates or a Florida hurricane can have lasting effects.

Children are born with varying degrees of resilience.  Research has shown, that even among families, how individual siblings recover from stressful events can be very different. We have also learned that both children and adults can develop resilience by:

  • Maintaining physical health,
  • Engaging in activities that they enjoy and feel competent doing, and
  • Through physical or mental activities that lower stress levels.

Resilient or not, support  from trusted and caring adults is critical to helping children through tough times. Adults who demonstrate and reinforce healthy coping behaviors are great role models. It is important to remember that while children listen to our words, they are also very sensitive to our behavior.

Just as with adults, what works for one child may not work for another.  In addition, don’t hesitate to seek professional help if children are showing signs that they are overwhelmed, and that they are not eating, sleeping or functioning well after an event is long over.

The American Academy of Pediatrics just released a new Trauma Guide that may help parents address their child’s mental health needs. You can also access this map to find a local children’s mental health professional in your area.  We’ve also posted many children’s mental health activities on our Pinterest account – check them out for activity ideas to do with your kids!

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