Positive Coping Strategies for Kids

Text: "Adults who can practice social empathy and show positive coping skills with be encouraging to family members also feeling stress."

Has your family had lots of questions about the most recent corona virus pandemic? If you follow the news stations, they will provide information around the clock. We don’t all interpret what we are hearing in the same way, so having honest conversations, at the level that individual family members can understand is important.

The most important message we can provide is that as a family, we will do everything we can to stay safe, including hand washing and sanitizing all surfaces we touch on a regular basis. We can practice social distancing and we can reach out to our neighbors by phone or our friends by video chat.

As we grow, we all learn to navigate our emotions and experiences in different ways. We know that children will watch their parents and siblings for ways to respond. Adults who can practice empathy and show positive coping skills will be encouraging to family members also feeling stress.

Children may need to have a list of appropriate responses that they can choose because one of the many needs a young person has while growing up is independence. Being able to choose from a list of suggested coping techniques can be very helpful. For example, could we do some yoga or deep breathing exercises? Could we get out the art supplies and do some creative art? Maybe we are piano players or have music that we can turn to as a calming coping mechanism.

Older children may need to get more physical exercise, an outdoor run or a walk in nature may be a great idea. Other children may enjoy journaling their feelings, special journal paper, pens or a book is a great way to encourage getting the feelings onto paper.

Another family activity can be found in the kitchen. Find a recipe that could become part of the family meal and together, practice some math and science skills as you create a delicious meal together. Check out our Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Spend Smart Eat Smart website for recipe ideas and helpful cooking videos!

If down time is needed, suggest a rest period. Our body needs eight or more hours of sleep each evening to perform at our best. When we are overwhelmed with anxiety, frustration, disappointment or plan stress, we don’t sleep well and that too can impact how we feel and react throughout the day.

We are all in this together and caring for one another and modeling good coping skills is up to each of us! More coping information can be found on the CDC’s web page, “Stress and Coping.”

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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How to Help Kids Cope and Contribute during COVID-19

The new “normal” that many families have endured recently includes limiting their time engaging with friends and neighbors in an attempt to practice social distancing. This experience is probably very new for many people. Not only is it new, but it can also be very lonely and disappointing. Children who want to play with friends, but who are told they cannot, may really have many questions. Their emotions may spill over with fear, anger and even anxiety as they try to adjust to this situation.

Providing additional parental hugs of reassurance that the boundaries and limits that are being followed at this time will not last forever. Taking the time to listen to children as they express their emotions will help them to brainstorm solutions for how they can cope with limited time with friends and neighbors. Young children may have an exaggerated response to being separated from their friends, so talking and reassuring your child is important. Perhaps using a social media platform to check in with the neighborhood playmates may help to ease the separation anxiety.

Even older teens may feel lonely or isolated or even experience the FOMO “fear of missing out” on what their friends are doing in their own homes, practicing social distancing. Visit with your children and let them know that their concerns might be turned into something positive. For example, if we are missing our friends, could we each keep a simple journal to highlight our days, and how we spend time as a family?

If we had concerns about a neighbor who lives alone, could we make cards of greeting and well wishes? Even a daily walk to enjoy the fresh outdoor air can make a difference and lift our spirits.

Our situation may not change overnight, but our response to it can! We can choose to communicate with one another and find ways to support each other through the covid-19 pandemic. We can listen to the emotions our family members have, and brainstorm helpful solutions.

As a reminder, we always encourage families to remember to Stop, take some deep breaths, and then Talk with intention to one another. Listen to our Science of Parenting Podcaster Mackenzie Johnson as she describes the benefits of the STOP BREATHE TALK method.

In addition, the following additional resources may be helpful to you and your family.

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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The floods, storms and tornadoes of 2011 are taking their toll on the nation’s children, who may be stressed, worried or frightened about what is happening to them and their families. Learn how to talk to kids about natural disasters in this month’s Science of Parenting radio program podcast.

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Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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