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Identifying Stress and Other Stressors and Building Coping Skills

Healthy Coping Skills

Practice your healthy coping skills. Here are a few healthy coping tips to consider:

  • Take breaks from media.
  • Exercise. Moving your body regularly is helpful for your body and for your mind.
  • Make it a priority to have regular, nutritious meals. Try to keep healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables around for snacking. 
  • Set a bedtime and wake time on a regular schedule and keep a relaxing routine prior to sleep.
  • Keep your mind busy. Instead of avoiding thinking about something, find something else to focus on, like learning a new skill or engaging in a low stress conversation.
  • Practice gratitude, for example by making a goal to jot down 3 small positive moments at the end of the day.
  • Connect to nature. Getting outside in the fresh air, even for a few minutes each day, is good for your mental health.
  • Find creative outlets, such as journaling or music that allow you to redirect your thoughts by shifting your focus onto the creative process.


Warning Signs of Stress in Children

Children and adolescents respond to stress in different ways. Parents and caretakers can look out for signs of stress including:

  • Difficulty with attention and focus. 
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits.
  • Avoiding activities, especially activities they previously enjoyed.
  • Somatic/physical symptoms, like headaches, stomachaches, etc.
  • High level of worry and obsessive thoughts.
  • Sadness, irritability, and anger.
  • Seeming to lose attained skills, such as having more toileting accidents.
  • Use of substances.

“Patience, Flexibility and Compassion”


How Parents Can Help Children Cope

Validate your child and let them know it is normal to feel sad, scared, or mad sometimes. Remind them that they will not always feel that way.

  • Help them remember how they have gotten through hard times in the past.
  • Keep lines of communication open with your child. Talk openly and bring up difficult topics even if your child does not. 
  • When children ask questions, thank them for bringing up the topic and answer honestly. If you do not know the answer, let them know, and think together about how to get the answer. 
  • When children bring up opinions they have heard, ask neutrally where they learned those so that you can help them evaluate whether and how much to trust their sources.
  • Share information at a developmentally appropriate level. Reassure your children about the ways you and the community are keeping them safe. 
  • Check if your child has understood what you said by asking them to repeat back to you what they heard. 
  • Talk with your older children or adolescents about how you are assessing risk and what helped you make your decisions. Then, find a way for them to stay connected with their peers within the boundaries that you set. This could be virtually or through safe in-person socializing.
  • Show your child how you cope with stress. Children are learning from what you do more than what you say.
  • As much as possible, keep some routines. While it is important to build flexibility, having some structure is good for mental health during a time of uncertainty.
  • Take advantage of a different schedule to try new ways to make meaningfulconnections with your children. Take up 
  • reading a series out loud, listening to music, outdoor walks, or building sets together. 
  • Reach out for parenting help if you need it.


Dealing with Complicated Grief and Other Intense Reactions

After the peak of a disaster, most people return to their regular functioning. However, in the months after the disaster, some more serious mental health consequences can start to arise. Monitor yourself and loved ones for signs that you might need some additional supports. Some of the more common mental health disorders that you or a loved one might experience are:

• Depression
• Complicated Bereavement
• Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
• Substance Use Disorder
• Anxiety Disorders
Remember that you are not alone. If you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or thinking about hurting yourself or someone else, please reach out for help.