Leading Children Through Stressful Seasons – A Message Of Hope

For adults who are parenting, caring for, or teaching children during stressful times, it is easy to wonder how we can best help kids when so much is out of our control. Focusing in on some small things that we do have control over can produce big results for our kids during stressful seasons of life:

Seek out a social support system

Surround yourself with trusted family and friends who can listen to and encourage you. The presence of supportive relationships helps to naturally lower the body’s stress hormones, so we are better able to parent and teach the children in our care. This video does a great job explaining how supportive family and peer relationships for adults are healthy for both the adults themselves and children they are leading:

Spend time strengthening the parent-child or teacher-student bond 

Building strong relationships with kids can be done in simple ways, such as reading together, playing games, spending time outside, or having conversations at mealtime and bedtime.  Forming this secure attachment allows for further development and use of the frontal lobe in the brain, which is where the capacity for empathy, problem solving, impulse control, and healthy means of communication are housed. 

Model emotional regulation strategies in the face of adversity 

Living out healthy ways to respond to things that come up each day builds resilience and healthy problem solving skills, even for the youngest of children. When you get everyone out of the car and to the front door of the store and realize you forgot your mask, how do you react? We can be honest about our emotions (“Oh no, this makes me feel really frustrated…”) and pair our feelings with a restorative or playful statement (“but it won’t take us long to get back to the car; I’m definitely getting my steps in today!”) These kinds of paired statements model the healthy practice of naming and acknowledging emotions and builds resilience by looking for bright spots in a less than ideal situation. Even with the youngest of children, parents who demonstrate healthy ways of responding to disappointment or frustration are wiring their kids brains to do the same.

One of the most amazing things about the brain is that it is plastic – meaning at any age, it can be rewired to respond to adversity in more positive ways, which greatly contributes to overall health and well-being. What a special gift to be able to pass on to a child! Responding to adversity with the brain in mind and focusing on social-emotional learning with a child can feel overwhelming during stressful times, but with a support system and grace for yourself, even small changes can make a huge difference for your family.

If you would like support implementing brain-based parenting strategies at home or in the classroom with young children, please reach out to PTSL’s Family and Community Outreach Specialist, Meredith Bailey, at Meredithbailey73@gmail.com.