Tips for Helping Special Needs Child Cope With Stressful Life Events
Stressful life events can disrupt a child’s life and severely impact their mental health. Special needs children can be affected adversely by what may seem to be small things such as a change in routine or family life. But they are also more likely than neurotypical children to be affected by traumatic events such as exposure to violence and serious threats.
It may not be possible to know the full range or impact of the stress affecting them, so pay close attention to your children’s mental health. If you suspect your child is dealing with a stressful life event, observe them carefully for signs of irritability, aggressiveness, clinginess, nightmares, physical complaints, school avoidance, poor concentration, and withdrawal from activities and friends. If a child shows excessive signs of stress for more than two weeks, caregivers should contact a professional.
In addition to professional help, these tips from the National Association of School Psychologists can help the child cope.
- Encourage your child to express his or her feelings with any creative outlet that works. Calmly listen or have them draw or write out their thoughts and feelings. Or they could try puppet or doll play in which your child can recreate stressful events in ways they can more easily manage.
- Respond to your child’s feelings without judgement. Reassure them that their feelings are valid.
- Allow your child quiet, relaxed time to process the event. Avoid overly busy schedules or any activity that puts pressure on the child.
- Maintain a daily routine. Keeping a regular schedule provides a sense of control, predictability, calm, and well-being. Children always feel empowered if they can control some aspects of their life. A sense of control reduces fear.
- Provide nutritious foods and make sure your child gets plenty of rest.
- Take slow, deep breaths with your child. Deep breathing is a valuable tool for calming the nervous system. Physical activity can also help decrease stress. Encourage movement, dancing, and physical exercises.
Most importantly, offer lots of love and affection. Your children are looking to you for stability, security, and mental and physical well-being. As you pay close, respectful attention to their feelings, be sure to express your unconditional love. Let your children know that they can always rely on you for love and care.
Alpha School an private special education school in New Jersey
Our Mission at The Alpha School is to help all of our special needs students with the learning, social, language, and behavioral support they deserve. Our highly skilled staff are committed daily to helping each student to becoming the best they can while providing a safe and nurturing educational environment.
We would be more than happy to discuss your child’s specific needs and challenges, so please call us at 732.370.1150, or request a tour of Alpha School of Jackson, NJ located just minutes off of Route 9 and Route 195 in Ocean County.
— John Gonzalez, Principal-Alpha School, Jackson, NJ