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How to build resiliency in your child

Addressing change and uncertainty with kids

5 ways to help kids cope with change and uncertainty.

If you have a child or teen in your life, consider these tips for helping them build understanding and resiliency. They’re great for parents, teachers, babysitters and other trusted adults.

#1. Start by listening

Before you give information or advice, make sure you aren’t making assumptions about what your child already knows or how they’re feeling. Listen to your child, give them space to talk, and avoid asking too many questions, which can feel overwhelming.

Validate their feelings and answer any questions they have.1 It’s all right to say “we don’t know” if the science hasn’t been settled on a topic yet.1 If your child is having trouble talking about how they’re feeling, encourage them to try art or journaling about their emotions.2

#2. Be honest and open

Especially for kids in middle school and high school, hearing about your own feelings can be helpful. While you don’t want to worry them, sharing some thoughts and feelings can help them feel like they’re not alone. It can also show them that they don’t always have to pretend that everything’s fine or hide their feelings. Be sure to also share the ways you are coping.2

#3. Stick to a routine

Routines are comforting for children. Make sure they get up on time, go to school on time and follow their normal school calendar.2 If the weather allows, encourage them to get some fresh air. Make exercise, plenty of sleep and healthy meals part of the routine too.3

#4. Teach self-soothing

Just like you may choose a solo run, a hot bath or meditation to clear your mind when you’re feeling stressed, kids can find ways to self-soothe. For some, a distraction like drawing or building a blanket fort might work. For others, cuddling with their favorite stuffed animal or spending some time outside may be calming. Encourage them to find ways to relax when uncertainty feels stressful.4

#5. Know when to get help

Depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns are common. If your child is experiencing symptoms or is having trouble coping, seek professional help. Your employee assistance program can connect you with a licensed therapist.4

Bottom line: Resiliency is a skill that can be learned. Helping children discover how to manage stress, anxiety and feelings of uncertainty is an important life skill. But even the most resilient people still experience tough emotions. Be there for your child and try to support a positive outlook.3 Reassure your child that their feelings are valid. Then turn off the news for a while and take a break. Getting some exercise, playing a game or reading together are all great ways to spend time together.2

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Sources:

  1. World Health Organization. #HealthyAtHome — Healthy Parenting. Accessed August 17, 2023.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Helping Children Cope With Emergencies. Last reviewed, September 1, 2020. Accessed August 17, 2023.
  3. American Psychological Association. Resilience Guide for Parents and Teachers. Accessed August 17, 2023.
  4. Magination Press Family. Kids Feeling Stressed? Help Them Learn Self-Care Skills. April 2, 2020. Accessed August 17, 2023.

The information featured in this site is general in nature. The site provides health information designed to complement your personal health management. It does not provide medical advice or health services and is not meant to replace professional advice or imply coverage of specific clinical services or products. The inclusion of links to other web sites does not imply any endorsement of the material on such websites.

Optum does not recommend or endorse any treatment or medications, specific or otherwise. The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not meant to provide medical advice or otherwise replace professional advice. Consult with your clinician, physician or mental health care provider for specific health care needs, treatment or medications. Certain treatments may not be included in your insurance benefits. Check your health plan regarding your coverage of services.

If you or someone you know is in crisis— seek safety and get help right away. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 or go to the closest emergency room.

To reach a trained crisis counselor, call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). You may also text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org. The lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support.

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