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Fostering Stress-Resilience in Young Minds: Empathy, Communication, and Routine

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

October 17. 2023

It is important to understand how your child or adolescent copes with psychological stress because our world presents many complicated situations that are neither easily explainable nor predictable. Social media, adult discussions, and exposure through other communication channels can lead children and adolescents to perceive, at times, a personal sense of danger, isolation, fear of loss, and/or proximity to repeated acts of violence.

While most children and adolescents are able to cope with psychological stress with the help of parents and other caring adults, some may be at risk of more extreme reactions due to their personal circumstances. If parents, teachers, or adult caregivers observe changes in their child’s behaviors or patterns, it is crucial to seek professional guidance. Developmentally, these changes may include, but are not limited to:

For Preschoolers: · Thumb-sucking · Bedwetting · Clinging to parents · Sleep disturbances · Loss of appetite · Fear of the dark · Regression in behavior · Withdrawal from friends and routines For Elementary School Children: · Irritability · Aggressiveness · Clinginess · Nightmares · School avoidance · Poor concentration · Withdrawal from activities and friends For Adolescents: · Sleeping and eating disturbances · Agitation · An increase in conflicts · Physical complaints · Delinquent behavior · Poor concentration

What parents and caregivers can do to help children and adolescents develop personal coping skills:

1.Allow your children the opportunity for open and authentic communication:

Provide opportunities for sharing anxiety, fear, anger, sorrow, and grief. Whether an adult's feelings align with their children’s or not, it is essential to validate children’s emotions. Parents and caregivers should demonstrate open and genuine expression of feelings through actions, not just words. Reiterate to your children that you are available to listen when needed. Listening means taking in what they have to share without making initial judgements or jumping in to correct errors in thoughts or feelings.

2. Allow alternative methods of expression:

Not all children can express their thoughts or beliefs verbally. Adults can offer opportunities for children to express their feelings creatively by providing drawing, tactile, or visual materials and resources. Teachers can allocate time in class for students to engage in art projects, essays, drama activities, and music. Sharing should take place at a safe time and in a space. Children should be able to share without fear of ridicule or criticism.

3. Be honest but age-appropriate in your explanations:

Tailor your discussions to your child's age and maturity level. Do not provide children with more detail than they need to hear. Recognize that they need to identify a "safe person" to whom they can turn for support. Adults can dispel rumors or misinformation by engaging in meaningful discussions rather than having children watch distressing news or view disturbing images. Keep in mind that young children may not fully understand the scope and breadth of stressful events, but they are adept at picking up on adult feelings and communication around them.

4. Maintain healthy routines, which include predictable and reliable activities: Consistency and predictability can provide a sense of stability and security for children. They need social diversions to reduce feelings of isolation and restore emotional security. Additionally, physical activity has a dual benefit, allowing necessary downtime and permitting the brain and body to process events in a non-threatening manner. Healthy routines strike a balance between school, play, and relaxation.

5. Children need to learn that they can control some things while other things remain beyond their control:

Kindness, empathy, and supporting others through corresponding, volunteering, or donating can be very empowering when one feels limited in their capacity to provide immediate relief to others. “Asking” children guided questions to engage in effective problem-solving, rather than “telling” them what to do, builds independence, self-reliance, and confidence.

Remember that children may react differently to world events, and their stress levels can vary based on their age, personality, and individual experiences. Your support, understanding, and patience can go a long way in helping them navigate these challenging times. If your child or adolescent needs support in managing daily routines and practicing self-regulating strategies to achieve greater success, Cogmotion Learning can help!


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