How Preschoolers Cope with Difficult Life Events
Preschool children are uniquely vulnerable to certain types of stress and trauma. They are at an age where development is occurring by leaps and bounds, but this also means that a severe and prolonged stressor during this age can set them back that much more. They are far more aware of what goes on around them, yet still extremely helpless and often confused about how the world works. Here are some of the unique ways preschoolers cope with stressful events:
1. Preschool children are highly curious about how the world works, and are now capable of interacting with adults in more meaningful ways. So they'll want to be kept in the loop about things. Do your best to facilitate this thirst for knowledge while still filtering information that might be overly stressful. Many parents baby preschoolers and keep them out of the loop, but this tends to create more fear and anxiety than talking openly.
2. It's common for kids this age to ask the same questions over and over again. This isn't because they weren't listening but because your consistent explanations and reassurances provide a sense of comfort.
3. Children this age have little sense of time, and also may struggle with issues related to permanence. Therefore you'll need to keep this in mind as you go about working through different situations. A month might as well be a week to a preschooler, and they have trouble recognizing the permanence of death or abandonment.
4. Preschool children are very likely to become clingy or suffer from separation anxiety following a traumatic event or amidst ongoing turmoil. Parents should try to support this need for closeness in whatever ways they can in the immediate aftermath of a crisis, then slowly try to wean them off this dependency on attention as time goes on.
5. Regression in preschoolers is quite common after a traumatic event or amidst ongoing family turmoil. They may start having accidents more often or begin throwing toddler-like tantrums.