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

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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Stop. Breathe. Talk



Research shows that physical punishment and yelling is harmful.

So what can we do instead?

Stop.

Breathe.

Talk.

As we wind down our conversations on guidance & discipline it becomes important to just step back and focus on 3 simple steps. At any age and in any situation we can help ourselves by remembering to take a moment to stop, take a breath and use a calm voice as we talk to our child about our expectations.

No matter what age our children are, we can stop, breathe and talk. Even a crying infant can be comforted by our slowed breathing and calm reassuring voice. Toddlers can see our calm demeanor and notice our quieter voice. The elementary and middle school child notices that we are role-modeling actions for them to mirror.

Talk doesn’t mean lecture. It can be as simple as, “I hear you” or “I see that you are upset right now”.  Allowing children a safe place to express their strong feelings while we model a calm, cool and collected approach, is the best kind of guidance and discipline we can give our child.

 

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, 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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Kids are Watching!

Little girl looking at her mother

Alert!  Attention! Calling all parents and adults.  Yes, YOU!   I’m talking to you.  Kids are watching.  They are watching everything you do and everything you say.  Some of the most important lessons kids learn about kindness are observed.  But, will they pick up caring behaviors simply from watching?  Yes, they will model our behavior, but they will emulate much more, if we can intentionally discuss and encourage positive interactions. It’s our duty and responsibility as parents to point out the positive interactions that we observe and to be mindful that kids might be watching every move we make, so we had better behave!

Janet Smith

Janet Smith

Janet Smith is a Human Science Specialist-Family LIfe with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She currently provides family life programming in eight counties in southeast Iowa. Janet is a "parenting survivor". She is the mother of Jared-21, Hannah-20, and Cole-15. She and her husband, David have faced many challenges together, including their son Jared's Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis.

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You’re Not Done Modeling

Yes, parents still matter in the lives of their teens. Teens do care about you even though at times you may wonder. And – you’re not done modeling. In the podcast we shared the five basics of parenting adolescents with one being model and consult.

So you might be thinking – give me some specific strategies. The obvious one is to set a good example with your habits – eating, drinking, physical activity, risk taking. That old escape line of “Do what I say, not what I do” really doesn’t cut it with teens. And certainly you can model adult relationships – with employers, friends, partners, and spouses. Your teens will learn from how you interact and treat other people.

Here’s another strategy – answer teens’ questions. It’s ok to express your personal opinions on issues. Your teens may not agree but you are modeling different viewpoints and how to talk with people who take different positions. In our house we had the rule that we could talk about anything as long as people were respectful. Worked pretty well for us and it’s a strategy I continue today now that the kids are adults with teens of their own.

Have you considered that establishing or maintaining traditions is a form of modeling? During the holiday season families observe lots of traditions – some silly, some serious, some sacred. Traditions are often a tangible expression of values. For example, going to the grandparents’ home for a holiday meal and celebration models the importance we place on family. Attending a religious service on Sunday morning demonstrates spiritual values. Buying toys for an Empty Stocking program says we care about those less fortunate than us.

Now you get the picture. Teens still need their parents to provide information, teach by example or modeling, and carry on conversations about relevant issues. That’s a tall order but you are raising teens and these final years under your care are setting them on the path to adulthood.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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The Day We Got Our First TV

Dare I confess I remember the day our family got its first TV – black and white and big enough to take up a whole corner of the living room. We watched sitcoms, variety shows, westerns, and baseball games. Some of that programming would now probably be deemed politically incorrect and inappropriate for children to view.

That said, two practices are still relevant today. We watched as a family (one parent always in the room or nearby) and none of us kids had TVs in our bedrooms. TV viewing was a family affair, not an individual pursuit.

Today is a different time but parents still get to make the choice of how television is used in their homes. I listen to parents talk about how there isn’t anything to watch on TV even though we have hundreds of channels. They also complain about how much TV their kids are watching or what they are watching.

So Mom and Dad – time to put TV guidelines into place for your family. Sit down with your kids and together decide how TV will be used and when it will be watched. Maybe you don’t need a TV patrol in your home. But you do need discussions to arrive at a comfortable plan that fits your family’s values.

I might also add that your kids are watching you watch TV. They see how you use it for leisure, education, or background noise. They notice how much you watch and its importance in your life. Are you modeling what you want your kids to do also?

The University of Michigan Health Systems has some excellent information about television and children. Check it out at: http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/tv.htm

While you’re at the site be sure to also read A Guide to Managing Television: Tips for Your Family. http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/managetv.htm

Which tip do you want to try with your family?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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