The Psychological Impact of School Transitions (page 2)

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Jan 1, 2011

Helping a Child to Cope with Stress

Children can also be helped to manage stress in many ways. Knowing how to identify stressful symptoms in a child is the first step toward helping the child develop ways to successfully cope with stressful situations. The following steps can be helpful in teaching children to manage stress more effectively:

  • Teach children how to recognize the symptoms of stress they may be experiencing.
  • Help the child learn how to relax through deep breathing, stretching, muscle relaxation, or using visual imagery to calm the mind and body.
  • Help the child to develop a framework for problem solving that will help to reduce stress and increase opportunities for success.
  • Encourage the child to use positive methods to solve the problem or to back away and release tensions prior to attempting a solution.
  • Normalize stress for the child by talking about how stress can influence anyone, at any age.
  • Don't involve a young child in discussions about adult matters. Children who are given too much information may feel more powerless to help and may feel that they are to blame for difficult times.
  • Praise the child's efforts and help the child understand that sometimes not getting what we want can be a powerful lesson that helps us learn how to try different approaches in the future.
  • Help the child to understand that stress often comes from having to make difficult choices. If the child did not make the best choice, help him or her to understand how to problem solve in order to make better choices in the future.
  • A daily planner can be a great stress buster. Teach the child that a daily planner (student agenda) is a best friend. Knowing what to expect can help the child to be prepared, and being prepared is one of the best ways to fight stress.
  • If the child is stressed about a social situation or event, help the child role-play what might happen and what possible responses might be appropriate.

Finally, it is important to remember that there are both positive and negative ways of coping with stress. Inappropriate ways of attempting to deal with stress involve withdrawal, avoidance, denial, acting out, and blaming others. Positive ways of coping with stressful experiences result from viewing stressful experiences as learning experiences. Knowing what to expect and preparing for the unexpected are healthy ways of using stressful experiences to motivate change in a positive way. And don't forget, having a good sense of humor can be a positive way to relieve stress.

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