- Staying physically active
- Making time for mental rest
- Coping with big thoughts
Help your child build a toolbox of safe, effective coping skills including:
More than ever before, students, families, and school staff are experiencing increased levels of stress, anxiety, and isolation, and are in need of mental health support. TRAILS recommends helping children and teens build a toolbox of safe, effective coping skills to help manage their feelings. Click here for more detailed information.
Stay physically active
Physical activity is one of the most effective ways to stay mentally healthy and to cope with worry, sadness, and isolation. During this time, physical activity is especially important for all children and teens, but making it possible may require creativity. Help your child brainstorm ways to stay active that work for your family setting. Some ideas might include:
- Going outside for a walk, jog, or bike ride
- Trying an online fitness workout with a friend virtually
- 30 minutes of family fitness (jumping jacks, pushups, sit-ups)
- Dancing to a favorite playlist
- Walking up and down staircases
- Playing hopscotch or jumping rope
Make time for mental rest
Research shows that even five (5) minutes of relaxation practice per day can help reduce stress, decrease inappropriate behavior, boost concentration, and improve sleep. Help your child take mental breaks by practicing a few minutes of relaxation or mindfulness together, or teaching them how to do this on their own. Here are a few strategies you can try at home:
Grades Pre-K – 2
- Animal yoga: Pretend to be different animals, and shape your body into curled up and stretched out positions. Imagine being that animal.
- Tighten & Relax: Move through each major body part, slowly tightening (10 seconds) and relaxing (10 seconds) the muscles in each one.
- Imaginary vacation: Close your eyes and pretend you are in a favorite place – a beach, your room, a hot air balloon – and imagine, tell, or write about what it is like there.
- Mindful eating: Hold a piece of food in your hand (raisin, M&M, etc.) and look at, feel, and smell it. Then put it on your tongue and notice its smell, taste, and texture before chewing and swallowing.
- Loving Kindness: Create a statement of forgiveness, kindness, wellness, or love and send it to yourself. Then mentally send that message to loved ones, friends, family, neighbors, your community, and finally, the whole world.
- Tolerating Emotional Waves: Focus on the image of difficult emotions being like waves that come and go. You can ride the wave of each emotion, just tolerating it when it’s present, and trusting it will eventually roll on and give way to a moment of calm afterwards.
Coping with big thoughts
Research has shown that one way to calm back down is to identify the source of our anxiety, and use careful thinking skills. When faced with stress or uncertainty, we can experience increased heart rate, shakiness or unease, and feel agitated and tense. You can help your child or teen learn to recognize worried thoughts and focus on more helpful thoughts instead.
- Step 1: Help your child identify their thoughts. (Ask: If you were a cartoon, what would your thought bubble say right now?)
- Step 2: Help your child figure out if this thought is fully true, somewhat true, or not really reasonable. (Ask: How do you know this is true? Let’s find out more about this. How likely is this?)
- Step 3: After discussion (Step 2), help your child come up with a believable, but less worried thought. (Ask: What could you tell yourself instead that would help you feel less worried?)