Posted by Midhat Zaman on September 6, 2022
Midhat Zaman

Most adults need some structure to feel their best: a healthy routine, a positive workspace, social interactions, daily movement, and more. The same is true for children. Unfortunately, many kids saw their routines severely disrupted over the last few years:

  • Lack of social interactions with friends and extended family

  • Fewer opportunities for recreational activities

  • Change in schooling and learning environment 

And future disruptions are not unlikely.


Life events that can impact mental health:

  • Moving homes or changing schools

  • Seeing parents go through a divorce or separation

  • Living through financial hardship

  • Witnessing death or serious illness

These experiences and many others can lead to stress, anxiety, trauma, and other mental health issues. Symptoms of poor mental health are often recognizable.


Common signs of stress in children:

  • They are angry or more irritable.

  • They are withdrawn or more attached than usual.

  • They have sleep issues or start wetting the bed.

  • Their grades are slipping.

  • They are losing interest in hobbies.

  • They experience physical symptoms, like stomach aches.

  • They have negative thoughts or contemplate self-harm.

Here are a few ways you can support children through stressful events and provide them with tools to navigate difficult emotions.


1. Talk with your children

Kids don’t always have the right words to express their negative emotions, thoughts, or experiences. This is why it’s crucial to check in on them regularly.

Help them open up about their stress by asking questions like:

  • It seems like you’re feeling sad. Would you like to talk about it?

  • How are you feeling about this situation? 

  • We’re going through a hard time. Can I tell you how I’m feeling? 


Take this opportunity to walk them through any life events or stressors in an age-appropriate manner, keeping in mind what information your child can tolerate. When planning a difficult conversation, here are a few things to remember:

  • Make sure you’re in an environment where the child feels safe.

  • Use language that is easy to understand and share your own feelings. 

  • Give your child a chance to share their thoughts and feelings.

  • Keep your emotional state in mind and pause the conversation if you feel overwhelmed.

  • Consult with a mental health professional if you need support approaching a difficult subject with your child.


2. Be an active listener

When engaging in conversation, especially difficult ones, give your child the opportunity to truly express themselves. This will help validate their feelings and experiences. These cues can help set up a productive and meaningful conversation:

  • Stop whatever you’re doing and give your kids your full attention.

  • Maintain eye contact to show that you are focused on them.

  • Get down on your child’s eye level to help them feel safe and in control. 

  • Repeat and reflect on what they say to ensure you understand.


3. Encourage playtime

Even during difficult times, create a safe and positive environment where your kids are empowered to play and do activities that help them relax. What activities do they enjoy that can help improve their mood? Here are a few ways to encourage positive playtime when your child is feeling sad or stressed:

  • Take them outside to a park or open space where they can run, jump, or tumble. This helps release negative stress and emotions.

  • Plan time for painting or drawing as a way to express their feelings.  

  • Schedule time for socializing with other children. This can teach them how to manage and understand different emotions


4. Create a routine

When other aspects of life are disrupted, a routine lets us know what to expect, and is often reassuring. Work with your child to develop structure around their day. Including them in the decision-making process lets them feel in control, but also creates a sense of security. Here are a few guidelines to help you plan a realistic routine for your child:

  • Be clear and specific: When children struggle to stick to a routine, it’s typically because they don’t understand it, or they’re not sure how to approach it. 

  • Write down the routine: Get your child involved in creating a to-do list or schedule. This helps them remember their routine and reinforces accountability.

  • Be realistic and flexible: Scheduled meals and bedtimes are essential, but follow your child’s lead if they feel hungry or sleepy.


How Dialogue can help

Despite having the right information, dealing with stress is challenging. Knowing when to seek professional support for yourself gives you the best chance to be there for your child and their mental health needs.


Mental health program

When you’re not feeling your best, it might feel harder to support the people you love. Virtual care providers, like Dialogue, can help you manage stress, anxiety, and other well-being concerns. Our team of mental health professionals works with you to create a personalized treatment plan and check in regularly to make sure you have the support you need.


Employee assistance program

Mental health issues are often caused by external stressors. If you’re worried about your career, need legal or financial advice, or want to learn more about healthy relationships, addressing these issues can help you feel better equipped to support your child.


Learn more about how Dialogue can help you and your family members prioritize mental health

Access Dialogue



Topics: Health and Wellness

About the author

Midhat Zaman is a content strategist, marketer, and avid writer at Dialogue. She is deeply committed to helping HR leaders and employees effectively navigate workplace challenges. Midhat puts her love for great content to work with health and wellness in mind. Through insightful articles, comprehensive guides, and more, she aims to empower Canadians with the right support to improve their well-being.