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4 Tips to Help Denver Children Cope with Hard Things

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The prolonged nature of the pandemic and hard things has brought chronic levels of stress and anxiety to many families. Though there appears to be an end in sight, we have a long way to go before things are back to normal. In these confusing times, we must be cognizant of how heightened stress and loss can impact the children in our lives. As the Program Director for the Kempe Center’s Trauma-Responsive Implementation and Practice, I have spent much of my career helping children, families and childcare professionals respond to these sorts of high-stress, traumatic situations. 

Helping Kids Cope with Hard Things

If your child is impacted by this adversity, here are some tips on how you should support and respond to your child’s needs in these difficult times: 

  1. Be calm and speak calmly. When faced with a stressor, take a moment to breathe and respond calmly. Children take their cues from adults. Most adults are also experiencing our own impacts from the pandemic. When children see caregivers cope well, they learn some of those positive coping skills. When they see adults struggle, some children can have their emotional security further threatened. We all have our moments, and it’s helpful to talk to children in age-appropriate ways about your own reactions when you are calm. Modeling this behavior will teach children to do the same.
  2. Put yourself in their shoes. Ask them to help you understand how they feel. Consider the cascade of changes that the pandemic has brought about in children’s lives. Even for children whose families were not directly affected by illness or job loss, there are many other impacts that could be potentially traumatic for children. It’s difficult to imagine how children are coping with such uncertainty, so it’s crucial to meet them where they’re at by starting a conversation with them about their feelings.
  3. Listen for and ask what they need. Focus on helping them feel safe and understood. Safety is a key concern for children experiencing chronic stress and trauma. Caregivers need to keep children’s perceptions of safety in mind and talk with them regularly about how to judge potential dangers accurately. Ask them, ‘how do you think I can help you?’ and work together to come up with solutions. This will build collaboration and trust.
  4. Initiate fun activities and praise positive behavior. Find positive activities to enhance your family’s well-being. Even though many of our old activities are not currently available or need to be modified, families can still make new happy memories. Dance classes on hold? Hold impromptu dance parties at home. Outside of these activities, be sure to praise children when they are behaving positively. Highlight when they are helping around the house or being kind to siblings. Find delight in the things that they do!

The current COVID-19 pandemic situation can be overwhelming. In order to look out for the children in your life, it is important to make sure you are taking care of yourself. If you need assistance call the Colorado Crisis Services 844-493-TALK(8255) or text TALK to 38255.

Evelin Gomez, PhD – Department of Pediatrics, The Kempe Center. Learn more about Kempe’s Trauma-Responsive Implementation and Practice Program

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