Teaching Children/Youth Coping Skills for Stress Management: Pre-School Stress Relief Project (PSSRP)

The Pre-School Stress Relief Project (PSSRP) was developed by Jennie C. Trotter and Gloria S. Elder for early prevention work with pre-schoolers. This substance abuse prevention and mental health program was developed to reduce stress and increase coping skills in children/youth.The PSSRP provides training, consultation and educational resources in the area of stress management for preschoolers, parents and teachers.This model is based on the premise that equipping children early with positive coping skills for stress reduction will increase their awareness and choices for healthy lifestyles over negative ones such as substance abuse. Substance abuse prevention requires more than providing basic information it also includes teaching developmental level skills necessary for forming positive self images, making good decisions, and developing coping strategies. By guiding children to improve their decision-making and problem solving skills, we can help them deal more efectively with the stressors they encounter.

Pre-Schoolers-Grade 2

CopeeThe PSSRP curriculum is divided into six lessons and utilizes videos, hand-on activities, and puppets; including Copee Bear, the mascot for this model program. Copee Bear teaches the childen how to cope with feelings, body changes, and stress in their lives. Copee is featured in practically all of the supplemental materials, such as posters, videos, and songs, which makes him a favorite of the children. 

Three of the important lessons that will sound familiar to early childhood educators include: Lesson One- I Am A Good Person;Lesson Two- Feelings and You; and Lesson Four-Good Ways to Get Anger Out.
  • The objective of Lesson One(I Am A Good Person) is to encourage children to say good or positive things about themselves. Teachers encourage children to think positive and use positive statements such as, "I can handle this." "I can pass my test." "I can control my temper." Help them visualize and create a mental picture of what he or she wants to happen, not what they fear.
  • The objective of Lesson Two(Feelings and You)is to encourage children to express themselves verbally by using feeling words in a sentence,such as I felt angry when you broke my toy.
  • The objective of Lesson Four(Good Ways to Get Anger Out) is to encourage children to practice good ways to get anger out. Teach positive ways to release anger. They can punch a pillow, count to 10, talk to someone about angry feelings, go for a walk, or take time out to rest and relax. Positive angry releases gives the child time to accept his/her anger and not hurt themselves and others in the process.The other three lessons which may not be as familiar to early childhood educators, include:Lesson Three - Your Body Changes with Stress; Lesson Five - Deep Breathing and Relaxation; and Lesson Six - Yoga Exercises.
  • The objective of Lesson Three(Your Body Changes with Stress) is to recognize how feelings cause changes in the body. Teacher shows picture of a sad face and says "When you feel sad you might cry and your eyes get red and swollen and you make a frown"; then teacher demonstrates (continued...)  sad feelings for children to see; next children imitate the sad feeling.
  • The objective of Lesson Five(Deep Breathing and Relaxation) is to help children learn three different kinds of body relaxations;(1)Deep Breathing; (2)Muscle Relaxation and (3)Guided Imagery Relaxation; Children are taught relaxation exercises to use when they feel uptight. Deep Breathing and tensing and relaxing exercises help calm the body and enables the child to relax; and
  • The objective of Lesson Six (Yoga Exercises) is to teach children exercises that help the body feel better. Children practice different sitting and standing yoga exercises at different times during the day to get stress out of their bodies. For example, children learning to write can practice the "Elephant Trunk" by clasping fingers together to relax tired fingers.  
All of these lessons are of vital importance of stress management. Original Songs are included in the lessons to reconfirm the need to take time each day for oneself, the importance of getting plenty of sleep and eating fruits and vegetables.

Thinking niceParents make sure children eat a nutritious meal, get plenty of exercise, and have a good night's sleep. Proper nutrition, exercise and adequate rest are some of the best ways to manage stress or change in their lives.

Teacher Training

A two-day PSSRP teacher training is offered around the country. It addresses the development stages of childhood, pointing out that the age of the child is a factor in determining the child's ability to cope with stress. Other topics covered include understanding learning styles, the art of puppetry, practical application of the curriculum, and early referral for high-risk children. In addition to teacher training, there are teacher educational videos that give an overview of the program and demonstrates the six lessons of the curriculum.

Parenting

Parent training is also offered covering similar content and revelvant parent issues. One parent described how her shy child was brought out and made to feel more confident when dealing with stressful situations. Another parent found the techniques were helpful at home. After attending the workshop, she realized that, at certain times, her son was reacting to stress while she felt he was being obstinate. She then began to cope with his behavior in a more positive way. The teachers and parents training programs helps them learn how to handle their own stress and become familiar with stress management techniques.

Additional Strategies

Teachers and parents can help children learn to cope with stressful situations as follows:

  • Talk with children about their feelings and concerns. Allow children to express their own feelings as you listen with an open mind. Let them know that you are concerned about their feelings.
  • Praise children for there accomplishments and efforts. Help them develop a sense of self-worth.
  • Affection from you can reduce a stressful situation. Remember to say "I love you" and other positive, affirming statements to the child regularly. For example, "You are a good person", "You are beautiful", "You are strong" and "You can do it".
  • Examine your own coping skills. Be positive. Teachers and parents should be aware of what coping skills they are modeling for children when they are experiencing stress. When under stress, do you tend to drink more or talk to a friend?
  • Do not over schedule a child. Children need time to rest. Do not plan three activities like soccer, swimming, and dance close together.
  • Find humor in stresful situations and laugh with the child. Tell jokes and encourage the child to tell jokes to release stress.
  • Set clear and consistent limits for the child's behavior. Making rules and setting schedules can create order in a child's life. Following up with consequences makes rules work, and children learn that discipline equals caring.
  • When persistent disturbing behavior contiues, seek professional help. Asking for help when you need it is a sign of strength. When you are at your wits end, outside help can be comforting to you and helpful to the child.

Program Evaluation

The program was evaluated by an outside, Research Evaluator (Louis Anderson, Ph.D).

The Evaluation Component

Over a five year period the PSSRP trained over 300 teachers and teacher aids, approximately 600 parents and over 4,000 preschoolers in positive coping skills for stress reduction in Georgia Headstart and Metropolitan subsidized daycare programs.

Evaluation Results
    
1. A significant reduction in symptomatic behaviors exhibited by preschoolers such as:
  • nail biting
  • shaking
  • yelling
  • stomach aches
  • headaches
  • temper tantrums
2. A significant increase in the recognition of different emotions by preschoolers.
3. A significant difference was found in the preschooler's recognition of how stress affects the body.

An informal teacher's evaluation showed:

100% felt the curriculum had helped the teacher in managing stress in the classrooms.
95% felt that the PSSRP has helped the teacher in managing their own stress at school and at home.       

An informal parent's evaluation showed:

100% of the parents felt that the program had increased their coping skills for stress reduction in their personal lives.
 
Wholistic Stress Control Institute, Inc.
2545 Benjamin E. Mays Drive SW, Atlanta, GA 30311
(404) 755-0068 - Office | (404) 755-4333 - Fax | wsci@wholistic1.com - Email
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