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Tough Times: How to Help a Child Cope

If you could, you’d surround your child in bubble wrap, never let them get hurt, take away all the possible sources of pain, and give them a lifetime of rainbows and candy sprinkles. Of course, you can’t do that – not even close! But there are plenty of steps you can take to make sure your kids get through life’s tough times with their confidence, optimism, and sense of humor intact. Read on to learn a few tips and tricks for comforting a child when things get rough, without coddling them.

Don’t Be a Pollyanna

One of the most important things you can to do prepare your children for life’s troubles is to acknowledge them. Don’t pretend that everything is OK if it’s not. Teach children that facing problems head on is always a better strategy than hiding under the covers and hoping the boogeymen go away. 

Talk Things Through

Encourage your kids to talk about what they’re feeling. Whether it’s the coronavirus pandemic that’s bugging them, the recent death of a pet, conflicted emotions about becoming a sibling, or anything else, help them tell you what they feel. Rather than grilling them, though, find ways to subtly show that you are listening when they are ready to talk.

Teach Healthy Coping Skills

If you routinely reach for that bottle or wine or bar of chocolate when you are upset, your child will learn to numb her own feelings with food, alcohol, drugs, or other destructive, unhealthy ways to cope. Here are some ideas for healthy coping skills that the whole family can all rely on:

  • Aerobic exercise like a walk or bike ride
  • Meditation or a calming yoga routine
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Drawing, painting, or doing a craft
  • Taking a bubble bath
  • Talking to a friend or family member
  • Doing an act of kindness for a neighbor or stranger
  • Snuggling and spending quiet time together
  • Gardening or just getting some fresh air
  • Listening to your favorite music and maybe dancing it out!

Help Them Sleep

You know that sleep can be hard to come by when you’re stressed. The same is true for your kids, so give them a helping hand. An extra bedtime story, some lavender essential oil, a white-noise app, a snuggly stuffed animal to cuddle, a soft nightlight, or a gentle backrub as they drift off can all help a child to sleep.

Watch for Signs of Trauma

Think your kids are too young to get stressed out and feel traumatized? Think again. According to the San Diego personal injury lawyers at, who deal with families in the aftermath of accidents, trauma can happen to anyone, especially if someone is injured in an accident they couldn’t control. If your child shows symptoms of PTSD during a crisis or after an accident, seek out professional help. 

Such signs can include withdrawing, acting out, changes in personality or mood, violent or destructive behavior, or regressing to behavior they’ve otherwise outgrown, such as bedwetting or wanting their binkie back.

Cut Them Some Slack

Do you and your spouse ever let housework slide when you’re worried or overwhelmed? Ever order a pizza or Chinese takeout on a bad day when cooking from scratch is just too much? Cut your kids some slack too. It can make a world of difference. Don’t do this too often; kids need routine even more than usual during difficult days, and chores are a part of that. But it will be OK if they skip picking up their toys now and then or let the dinner dishes wait until tomorrow.

Have as Much Fun as You Can

Lastly, just because you’re dealing with something heavy doesn’t mean you can’t cut loose, laugh, and have a little fun. Heck, make that as much fun as possible! Watch a goofy comedy together, start a (gentle) pillow fight, play games, or just make silly faces at each other until you all start laughing. It will do you all a world of good!Giving your children coping skills and resilience to get through when the going gets rough is one of the best lessons you can teach them. Share your stress-busting strategies and family togetherness tips in the comments!