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5 parenting ideas to help kids handle stressful situations

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Friends dropped by with their kids two Sundays ago.

They were like rung out rags.

Mr. 9 year old narrowly lost both a basketball grand final on Saturday morning and an Aussie Rules final on the Sunday morning.

Miss 4 year old narrated the two games for us. And like most kids of this age with few social filters, she gave us far too much information. She said, “Joe* cried when they lost the basketball. He was sad. And mummy was sad too!”

Yep, parents and kids felt a bit flat.

But their parents had the perfect antidote - adaptive distancing.

They were spending that afternoon walking and fishing at nearby beach. Okay they didn’t know they were engaging in some adaptive distancing. They were just doing what came naturally, which is great.

Adaptive distance is a strategy I discussed in my book Thriving! that parents can use to help kids handle stress, disappointment or get relief from worry overload. It’s otherwise known as 'taking kids minds off their worries and disappointments'. My mum used to do it with me a lot, but she didn’t know she was using adaptive distancing. She would’ve called it common sense.

Here are five ways to use adaptive distancing with kids:

1. Thought-stopping: Help kids prevent kids being overwhelmed by parking their thoughts or worries for a while. “That’s enough of those thoughts for now. Think about it after lunch, but leave them for now.”

2. Mental distraction: Read, run, write or roam. Anything they can do to distract themselves.

3. Move away from a situation: Physically removing themselves from a situation temporarily relieves stress and worry. A break from the study room, a walk outside or visit to shops gives kids the change-up they need.

4. A special place: I used to retreat to my bedroom to escape the stresses of the day. My son had a cubby in a tree out the front of our house. One of my daughters had a diary she’d retreat to. Help kids find their special place or thing where they can take solace and draw strength.

5. Offering hope: “This too shall pass” is a powerful lesson to learn at any age.

Okay, losing a sports final or two is small beans in the overall scheme of things.

But it is in handling the small ups and downs of every day life that kids develop their inner resources that will equip them to manage and come through the larger hardships, frustrations and difficulties that will inevitably come their way.

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