How you can help young children go ‘beyond coping’ when it comes to stress

by Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. on September 21, 2011

in Coping with Stress

This wonderful Bam Radio discussion titled, “Stressed Out Kids, Parents, Teachers, How to Copeis brought to you by Rae Pica, Dr. Megan R. Gunnar, Ellen Galinsky, and me.  I could really sit and listen to these ladies talk all day. Just listening to the wealth of information they bring to the table helps me to relax!

Rae Pica with Dr. Megan R. Gunnar, Ellen Galinsky, Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed.

Take a listen to the radio show by clicking here or by clicking here! Then come on back and read some of my reflections on this discussion.

Deborah’s Reflections on the Discussion…

Here are a few of the highlights that I came away with from this discussion that I want to share with you….

What does stress look like?

Young children express their stress in many different ways. Some children will act out and can become unruly, loud, and can even become over bearing to others who are in the room. Dr. Gunnar indicates that these behaviors are a way to “fight” the stress in their lives. Other children may withdraw and choose not to participate in activities or play with their peers. Withdrawing is a way to avoid the stress in their lives. Recognizing when young children are dealing with stress is the first step towards helping them go “beyond coping” with the stress in their lives.

Beyond coping…

The most important thing you can do to help young children cope with stress is to help them learn how to go “beyond coping.” Ellen Galinsky explains that “beyond coping” means helping children learn to take on challenges and develop strategies that will help them effectively deal with the stress in their lives.  Ellen goes on to say that young children need to feel like they have some control over what goes on in their lives. This doesn’t mean that children have to be in charge, rather what it means is that children need to feel like they are understood, being heard, and that they have choices that are within their control. In addition, young children need to feel loved and safe with the adults who are “in charge’ of their lives.

What does this mean to teachers?

– Be sensitive to children who are feeling stressed. Understand that everything from the look on your face to the tone of your voice will either exasperate or help to calm a child who is feeling stressed.

– Figure out how to set up your classroom and how to manage your classroom so that children can make choices throughout the day. Children who feel invited to make choices will feel a greater sense of control over what is happening in their lives. Feeling in control helps us all feel less stressed even in the midst of challenging circumstances.

– Make sure your students know that you care about them and will keep them safe.

– While under your watchful eye and while in your supportive environment, help your students be problem solvers by inviting them to seek out solutions to challenging circumstances on their own.

What does this mean to parents?

– Let your child fail in your safe environment. By failing in a place where children know they are safe and well loved, they will learn to be overcomers and problem solvers. Preventing all things that are hard doesn’t build the strength children need to build confidence and it doesn’t teach them how to take on challenges. As your child’s first teacher, you can give your child “beyond coping” skills by learning when to intervene and when to take a safe step back.

Just a few

These are just a few tips I picked up while listening to the experts in this Bam Radio discussion. Like I said, I could listen to them go on all day about this topic because what I have shared today is just the tip of a very big iceberg.

 

Disclaimer: The sweet little girl in the photo above is not stressed – but she sure takes a cute photo that worked quite well for this post. Thank you to her parents for being so terrific!

Links to grow on…

View more on “Helping Children to Take On Challenges” by Ellen Galinsky

This article is being shared with you by Deborah Stewart of Teach Preschool - Sharing the wonders of early learning in action!

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