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Coping Strategies - Infant and Child Mental Health

Learning to handle stress and emotions is an important life skill for everyone. Coping skills are what we think and what we do to help us get through difficult situations. Helping children learn positive coping strategies to deal with stress and emotions can help build their resiliency and prevent stress from turning into anxiety and meltdowns.1

Discuss coping strategies when your child is calm. Then when your child is upset, role model the strategy to try to get them to join in. Redirecting your child to a calm activity can also be effective.

 

Ways to help your child cope with stress and emotions:

  • Role model how to be calm.
    It is difficult to help someone else be calm when you are also upset. For example, you could role model taking 3 deep breaths, counting backwards from 10 out load, or put your favourite song on and dance around to change the mood in the room.7
  • Talk to a family member, friend, teacher or family doctor.
    Make sure your child knows that when they have a problem, or something is upsetting them, that they know who they can talk to, and that talking about it can help them feel better.
  • Encourage them to ask for help from a family member, friend, or teacher.
    Depending on the situation, they may need help to problem solve or complete a task.
  • Have quiet time together.
    Quiet time together is a way to help them feel loved, safe, accepted and comforted. Sit with them while they are upset.3 Initiate a calming activity like reading, colouring, listening to music, going for a walk, or singing a soothing song.
  • Once your child is calm, talk about what emotion(s) they were experiencing and why they might be experiencing it
    (i.e. what happened to cause the emotion). Point out how emotions are temporary they come and go like the weather (rainy one moment, sunny the next). We can choose to hold on to an emotion or let it pass.3
 

 
Young girl meditating
 
  • Having a regular exercise routine can be helpful to soothe emotions and make us feel good about ourselves.
    Try organized sports, kids’ yoga, or make your own family exercise routine.
  • Practice deep breathing.
    First recognize that they are upset “I see you are frustrated” “Let’s try taking deep breaths to help calm down so we can talk about what happened”.3 You can make it fun by pretending to blow bubbles.
  • Use humour to change the mood.
    Talk about a time something funny happened. Make a list of funny things together when you are both calm and then start naming things from that list when they are feeling down to cheer them up.4
  • Practice gratitude as a family.
    Everyday whether at breakfast, supper or bedtime have each member of your family say one thing in their life they are grateful for (i.e. each other, something that went well today, a safe home, health, ice cream, trees, swings, our planet).4
  • Learn about and practice Mindfulness, Mindsight or Meditation together.
    These are very effective in helping us to calm down from strong emotions and to keep our emotions in check.2 3
  • Have a family routine that includes getting enough sleep and healthy eating.
    We all get stressed more easily when we are tired or hungry.4
  • Take a nature bath
    Did you know? Research has proven that being with nature (i.e. being outside) can help reduce stress. Psychologist have started prescribing vitamin G (going outside where there is Greenspace like a park). In Japan it is custom to go for forest baths (spending deliberate time in forests to reduce stress). So to help reduce stresss, try including outdoor play into your family fun.6
 
Date of creation: April 18, 2017
Last modified on: April 18, 2017
 

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References

2Snel, E. (2013). Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids and Their Parents. Shambhala Publications, Inc.: Netherlands. Retrieved from
http://www.shambhala.com/sittingstilllikeafrog
3Siegel, D. & Payne-Bryson, T. (2012). The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary strategies To Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. Bantam Books Trade Paperbacks: New York.
4Southwick, S. & Charney, D. (2012). Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges. Cambridge University Press, NewYork.
5Froh, J & Bono, G. (2014). Seven Ways to Foster Gratitude in kids. Retrieved from
http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/seven_ways_to_foster_gratitude_in_kids
6Williams, F. (2017) The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative. W. W. Norton & Company: New York.