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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Discussing Celebrity Behavior

Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Tiger Woods, Paris Hilton . . .  The list of celebrities who have been involved in recent scandals and outrageous behavior goes on and on.  The lives of superstars have become so fascinating to the general public that there are entire television networks dedicated to filling you in on all the celebrity gossip.  Some people even gain superstar status because they exhibit inappropriate behavior.

As a parent, it can be concerning to know that children are watching these celebrity scandals, and seeing the incredible media frenzy and fame that comes along with them.  So what can you be doing to help your children understand all this information?

First of all, it is important to talk to your children about how this information makes them feel, and what their thoughts are about it.  Children might feel shocked or disappointed by the negative and inconsistent behavior of someone they look up to.

Listen to your child’s thoughts and feelings about the incident.  Don’t attack the celebrity (if it is a person your child looks up to, your child may feel the need to defend the celebrity).  Instead, talk about what might make a person behave like this.  Let your child know that celebrities and athletes are all human, and they all make mistakes.

During the conversation, you can also ask your child how the celebrity could have behaved differently, more appropriately.  This will help your child understand what appropriate behavior looks like, and how he/she can make good choices in difficult situations.

It is important for children to have role models to look up to.  Try introducing your children to local role models, who will demonstrate positive behaviors for your children.  For example, a firefighter, a policeman/policewoman, a nurse, or a teacher.  You can take this a step further by encouraging your child to be a positive role model.  Your child could do this by asking a classmate to play at recess, saving a spot for a new friend at lunch, or giving a nice compliment.

What strategies have you used to help your child understand inappropriate and inconsistent celebrity behaviors?

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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