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Family Files

Helping young children handle stress

father with child writing

I just love the Illinois Early Learning Project (IELP) website, which is a valuable source of evidence-based, reliable information on early childcare and education for parents, caregivers, and teachers of young children in Illinois. It is funded by the Illinois State Board of Education and is housed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the College of Education.

I receive a monthly newsletter from them that is full of great resources and I love to share those periodically with parents, guardians, caregivers and teachers of young children.

The pandemic that has uprooted our “normal” lives and caused quite a bit of chaos in our families and communities, has also created very trying times for parents with small children. During this challenging time, the IELP encourages adults to:

  • keep a stable routine and provide consistent guidance
  • give child-appropriate explanations
  • provide developmentally appropriate activities
  • reach out for support and information from reliable sources

They have a link on their website that provides numerous tip sheets and other resources that address all of these important principles. I would highly encourage you to check it out!

Just one example of the resources is a tip sheet on helping your child manage stress. They share that you can help your child learn to recognize and cope with the feelings of frustration, worry, and anger that can lead to stress and/or be signs of stress. Steps to take include:

  • Notice behavior that seems unusual for your child – being clingier, getting upset easily, having more attachment to “comfy” items like teddy bears, etc.
  • Help your children identify and label their feelings – reading books together about feelings can be helpful.
  • Teach ways to cope – model positive ways to deal with negative feelings and take time to listen to their feelings.
  • Limit stress – prepare them ahead of time for situations or events that may be stressful. Reassure them that change can feel strange at first, but it will pass. Try to avoid additional stressful changes if possible.
  • Be there – make time to talk with your child or just spend time with them every day. Reassure them that they are loved and will be cared for. Try to have fun together!
  • Talk to their childcare or health care provider – share concerns if your child displays severe or prolonged signs of stress. These signs may include showing little interest in daily activities, not sleeping or eating normally, or seeming withdrawn or easily upset. They may need some additional help.

For more information about this and similar topics, check out the Illinois Early Learning Project.

Source:  Illinois Early Learning Project
Author: Cheri Burcham, Extension  Educator, Family Life