As children grow and develop, they will face difficult situations where they feel worried, nervous and sometimes scared.

Coping skills are what we think, and what we do to help us get through difficult situations.

Children learn and use different coping skills from the time they are born. Parents and carers play an important role in helping children build on their existing coping skills, as well as learn new ones.

Helping children learn coping skills will help them cope with future challenges and strengthen their mental health and wellbeing now and into the future.

Five things you can do to help children cope

There are lots of ways you can help your child to cope during challenging or worrying situations, here’s five things you can do:

1. Listen and talk

Help children identify their concerns or worries and acknowledge how they are feeling. For example, you could say, “it sounds like you’re really worried about who you will play with at school tomorrow.”

2. Provide reassurance and comfort

There may be times when children don’t want to talk and just having a parent or carer nearby engaging in a shared activity or giving them a cuddle is helpful. Reassure children when they are feeling worried or unsure. For example, you could say, “it is a big playground but there is an area for just the little kids to play.” 

3. Model ways that you cope with situations

Demonstrate how you cope with a situation, for example, you could say, “I am going to take five deep breaths to help myself relax.”

4. Encourage children to ask for help

Teach children that it is okay to ask for help when they need it. For example, asking a teacher for help to open their lunch box.

5. Problem-solve the situation with them

Work with them to solve a problem using a step-by-step process. For example, you can break down a big task into smaller steps and guide them to build their skills so they can eventually complete the whole task on their own.

Helping children managing strong emotions

When faced with difficult or challenging situations children can feel angry, worried or perhaps distressed.

It can be hard for children to think clearly at these times, and it makes communication and cooperation difficult.

If your child is experiencing a strong emotion, it’s important to acknowledge it and be nearby to support your child.

You may also consider teaching your child strategies to calm themselves. There will be different strategies that help each child to feel calmer, and some children need more time and structure than others.

Follow your child’s lead to find out what helps them to feel relaxed.

Some suggestions include:

  • counting to ten
  • taking five deep breaths
  • jumping on the trampoline
  • going to a quiet place
  • playing with toys.

You may also talk to your child’s early childhood educator or teacher about any programs or strategies used in the education setting to support children learn these skills.

For more information

Coping with fears and worries

Using helpful self-talk to cope