Helping Our Kids Learn to


Jeana James - Washington County School District - Horizon Elementary

Because Life Can Be Stressful We Need to Prepare Kids to Handle it Effectively

We need to Teach Them to Become

Competent at Coping if they are to be RESILIENT

Although We Like to Think that Childhood is Blissful, Children are NOT as Shielded from Stress as We Might Imagine

They Worry about School, Peers, Future, Abilities, Appearance…

Learning Cannot take Place when there is

Too Much Stress

High Levels of Stress May Significantly Change the Brain

Not for the Better

Cortisol (a Steroid Hormone) is Released in Response to Stress

Excess Cortisol Kills Cells in the Hippocampus (the Brain Memory Maker)

It also Shrinks the Corpus Callosum & Frontal Lobes

Effects on the Brain from too much Cortisol

  • Brain Damage
  • Poor Social Skills
  • Low Verbal Skills
  • Memory Impairment
  • Aggression
  • Impulsiveness
  • Anxiety
  • Dissociation

It is Very Natural for Children to

Want to Please

They Often Stress & Worry about


& What We Think

They Sense even the Smallest Stress in Us & Pick up on Our Spoken & Unspoken Words

When We Seem Unnerved, They Feel Anxious

As They Become Older They Start Worrying about Things Beyond Their Immediate Circle, Like War, Violence, Even the Economy

This can Become Overwhelming for Some of Them

& Remember

They Don’t have the Benefit of having Lived Through Cycles of Such Events & Haven’t Adopted the

“This too Shall Pass”

Protective Beliefs that Adults Use to Move On

Like Adults Stress is very Uncomfortable for Children

The Problem is:

They experience many of the same feelings, but they usually don’t understand the connections between how underlying stress drives their moodiness and irritability.

Be Aware that Moodiness or Irritability may be

Signs of Stress

Stress Coping Styles

Positive Coping Strategies

Enhances well-being and ultimately leads to at least partial relief

Negative strategies might feel great and offer quick relief, but they end up causing harm to the individual or community and ultimately perpetuate and intensify the cycle of stress.

Kids will More Often Choose Negative Strategies Because of the Lack of Experience & Cognitive Ability

Plus the like the quick fix of negative strategies.

Negative Strategies for Kids may Include Things like Bullying, Shutting Down (helpless-hopeless), Tantrums, Overeating or Over-Sleeping…

Much more often than Adults, Children use Denial or Avoidance

Because of Their Limited Cognitive Ability

As They get Older & Lack Coping Skills it can move to Depression, Drinking, Drugs, Smoking, Sex, Gangs,

Self-mutilation, even Suicide…..

They Find it Easier to Enter a

Fantasy World

Fantasy is great fun and builds creativity

But when it’s Used as a Response to a Stressful Problem, it may be a

route to denial

Our Challenge then is to Equip Them with a Variety of Positive Coping Strategies to help

Protect Them

They Learn from Our Example how to Deal with Stress

We Need to


Good Strategies

Vigorous Physical Play

Increase Predictability

Remove Threat

Make sure they get

Plenty of Sleep

Up to 5th Grade - 10 Hours 6th - 12th Grade - 9.25 Hours


Lean Proteins



Fruits & Vegetables

Avoid too much

Fat & Sugar

Teach Stress Management Skills

Releasing Emotional Tension

Active Relaxation

Keep Perspective – Deflate the Situation


Avoiding Stress when Possible

Letting some Things Go


#1 Things to Teach Them

Take a Deep Breath

It’s Going to Be OKay

#6B Helping Our Kids Learn to COPE - Google Slides