Simple Ways to Help Kids Cope with & Manage Stress

Early Childhood, Self-Regulation

Kids have stress too!? Yes! Just like us, kids do have stress.

Here are simple ways to understand and help your kids cope with and manage stress.

Stress in the Womb
Even in utero, a fetus can experience the stress of its mother. Whether that be emotional, physical or physiological, the fetus can feel and be impacted by what the mother is experiencing. Especially when her stress levels are high and/or she has poor health.

The Stress Response System
Regardless of age, the stress response system, formally known as our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) operates in the exact same way. What I mean by that is, children can experience the same physiological fight, flight or freeze reaction in a threat-like situation. Stress is caused by an adrenaline surge and elevated cortisol levels to create a quick action response. Alternatively, acetylcholine and serotonin are released to slow things down for recovery.

Feelings of Distress
Babies cry to express when they are stressed/in distress such as when they’re tired, hungry, need to be changed or comforted. Babies are not born with coping strategies to deal with stress; therefore, they can solely rely on the love and care from the adults in their life. Matter of fact, coping strategies to deal with stress can continue to develop well into adulthood.  

Photo by Alexander Dummer

Types of Stressors
Children can experience a range of stressors such as biological – feeling hungry, tired, having allergies, emotional – feeling lonely, guilty, embarrassed, cognitive – feeling confused, overstimulated, learning new things, just to list a few. You’d be surprised some of the things that can be considered stressful for a child. The stress that humans experience can also range from positive stress – a normal and healthy part development, tolerable stress – more severe stressors with a limited duration, or toxic stress – adversity with a frequent and/or prolonged duration. Supportive relationships are what help to buffer and reverse the effects of stress. (See: Stress & Stressors)

Stress Behaviours
The manifestation of stress can be interpreted as challenging behaviours such as the following: temper tantrums, a change in eating (undereating or overeating) and/or sleep habits, physical aggression (biting, hitting, kicking), complaining of physical symptoms such as a tummy ache, headache, frequent illnesses due to a low immune system, just to list a few. 

Understanding the science behind stress can be quite complex.

In fact, not all stress is bad for us. It’s a normal key part of development and daily life. Stress is what gets us up in the morning, pushes us to do our best and helps us to Keep Going.

The most important thing to consider when understanding stress would first be to realize that you too experience stress. This will help you to think about how your child may be experiencing and displaying in an age-appropriate way that they’re stressed, and how best you can support them through all the ups and downs that life will inevitably bring their way. Such as the first day of school, trying out for a sports club or going for a job interview.

Photo by cottonbro
  • Ensure they are eating healthy and balanced meals and are getting enough sleep
  • Develop their emotional literacy by helping them to recognize, acknowledge, identify, express and talk about their feelings
  • Engage them in relaxation strategies such as deep breathing, mindfulness/meditation or yoga, as well as in physical activities. These create endorphins in the brain which help to reduce stress
  • Try to create stress-free environments such as device-free dinners/family time and limiting screen time
  • Read age-appropriate books with characters who overcome challenging situations
  • Kids like predictability. Maintain consistency in their daily routines and explain to them in advance when changes may be happening
  • Explain to them that stress is normal part of life and growing up and set positive examples of how you deal with it 


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

2 thoughts on “Simple Ways to Help Kids Cope with & Manage Stress

  1. Hi Samantha,

    I love reading these articles about mental health and how we can support our children. I am excited to begin my short LTO in a grade one and two classroom because I get to experiment teaching my students how to self-regulate and how to be mindful with the new knowledge I have gained during this pandemic. I think I am feeling a little anxiety with the time table I’ve been given because there isn’t much room for this area of mental health and I’m trying to figure out how I can maximize our time in the classroom to engage in mindfulness everyday. I’m thinking to add it into my literacy block as we can discuss this topic and write/read/listen to different texts? I am also figuring out how I can welcome the kids in the am and leave the kids in the pm by practicing self-care everyday. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Hi Kaitlin!

      Thanks for your comment. I truly believe you will be presented with many everyday opportunities to integrate self-regulation and mental health learning into the school day with your students because self-regulation and mental health is apart of everything we do. You may begin by integrating them into your timetable to start, but eventually find that it flow into every part of the day. Such as when your students are or aren’t concentrating, during transitions, adjusting to all the changes, the way they engage with their peers and with you, etc.

      Some suggestions I could think of include:
      – Teaching your students about the parts of the human brain and how the brain works. There’s an amazing curriculum called MindUp (they have a book and a website with resources: Teach about the PFC, the amygdala, hippocampus and what they’re responsible for. How the brain operates under stress, etc.
      – Teaching your students about the 8 senses and how they operate.
      – Engaging them in wide range of mindfulness activities (as you already intend to do). There’s a great book called Mindful Me: Mindfulness and Meditation for Kids with wonderful ideas.

      You might find that this learning starts off as a science unit, journal entry response or activity, but as your students become familiar with how their brain, senses and mindfulness play into their entire school day, they will not only learn the importance of each to well-being but will build self-awareness and lifelong skills and healthy practices.

      Best of luck and congratulations on your LTO!

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