Living in Today’s Stressful World

3-Part Blog Series on Stress

Part 2: Stress on Children in Child Care

We all continue to feel the stress in our world and daily lives. It is important to remember that children are continually gathering information from what is happening around them.

A case in point, when my children were growing up, (ages 4 and 6-ish), my husband was out of work for a length of time and on unemployment. One Sunday at church, it was time to go up for communion. My 6 year old son looked at me and asked if we could afford it. Sad!! Obviously, my husband and I had been talking WAY too much about our finances in front of their little ears. As the adults in our children’s lives, it is our job to protect them, keep them safe, and buffered from some of the harsh realities adults much contend with.

We need to focus on how children are dealing with the stress of isolation, family struggles, and the daily changes in life. Child care providers have the unique position to be able to evaluate children (and their families) to see how they are coping with the stresses they are facing.

The information below comes from the United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension and can be found at

Common Stresses for Children

Besides the current stresses of Covid19, our countries racial injustices, and economic concerns, here are some are other examples of stressful situations children in child care may experience:

  • changes in routines
  • a new child care setting
  • conflict with peers or bullying
  • lack of sleep
  • overcrowded child care settings
  • a new sibling
  • loss of a loved one  
  • conflict at home
  • deployment of family member

Basic Ways of Coping with Stress

These strategies work for both children and adults to learn how to manage stress effectively. Here are some ways to cope with stress in the child care setting.

  • get enough sleep, and be sure children are sleeping regularly
  • eat healthy meals and build in physical activity each day
  • find quiet time to relax each day
  • make an effort to accept what you cannot change
  • take one thing at a time, and encourage children to do the same
  • talk with friends about your stress
  • give children safe, appropriate ways to release their own stress

Stress-Relieving Activities for Children in Child Care

Children do not automatically know how to handle their stress. Child care providers can teach appropriate stress management by suggesting some of the following activities.

  • Paper ripping – (I often did this with my son, who had anger issues and attention deficit disorder) Let children have a “ripping good time” with old newspapers or magazines. They can crumple paper into balls and throw the balls all over. The balls are soft and safe. End the activity by throwing the balls into a basket or box for clean-up time.
  • Finger painting – Cover your table with an old shower curtain, plastic table cloth, or newspaper. Give children a large piece of paper and some finger paint. Child care providers should join in the fun. Use fingers, hands, and even elbows for painting a picture.
  • Active play – (Another great strategy – run laps outside) Make sure children have active play every day–even child caregivers should participate. Running, climbing activities and playing ball are good ways to be active and to relieve stress.
  • Laughter – Take time to be silly and laugh together with your children. Sing silly songs, read funny poems or stories, or just “goof around” with each other.

Whatever we do, remember that we are an important guide and mentor for the children in our care.