Comfort in a Changing World

By Guest Columnist: Dr. Michelle Krehbiel, Nebraska Extension 4-H Youth Development

“I don’t like this!” This statement is one that children or youth might use during a heated game, when being asked to correct unwanted behavior or when plans change.  For those children and youth who were looking forward to milestones like field days, end of school year celebrations, prom, or graduation, they have reason to believe that life can be sad, frustrating, and difficult.

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Photo by Kat Jayne on

The question is how do we, as nurturing adults, help young people cope with these emotions and equip them with the skills they need to be caring, connected, and capable adults?  Any loss for a child or youth, such as a failing an exam, death of a pet, changes in family structure, or events from a disaster, can lead to a wide variety of feelings such as disappointment, sadness, loneliness, or anger.  These feelings are common reactions to such experiences.

As caring adults, we can do the following to help young people cope.

  • Acknowledge feelings and allow youth to talk about their feelings and concerns. Let youth know that it is okay to be sad, scared or confused. Identifying and naming a feeling can be very helpful in trying to understand and make meaning of a situation.
  • Be a calm and reassuring presence. Remind youth that over time things will get better.
  • Help youth form positive coping skills by setting a healthy example of how to manage feelings like grief, anxiety, fear, or sadness. Teach young people that exercising, meditation, writing in a journal, engaging in a favorite hobby like art, cooking, gardening or sewing are healthy ways to work through disappointment, loss, and grief.
  • Expressing gratitude for things that make life enjoyable is another way teach positive coping skills.
  • Create an environment where youth can interact with their peers. Using video conferencing, having telephone conversations, or writing letters are ways of connecting with peers. These connections can be helpful ways to provide emotional support for youth, especially for adolescents.
  • Simply, listen. If ever youth need adults to listen, it is now. Being able to talk about an experience can support making meaning of a situation which is an important part of grieving. Remember you don’t have to have all the answers. Silence is okay. Youth just need to know you care.

Sometime life can be difficult, unfair, and painful. While adults cannot prevent or change all of these experiences, they can play a significant role in helping young people cultivate and practice skills that give them the ability to develop resiliency or the ability to overcome hardship. The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University recommends that adults build supportive adult-child relationships as a way to strengthen a young person’s resiliency.  Taking the time to listen and communicate with young people, being a positive example of healthy coping skills, and simply just being a calming reassuring presence are action steps that adults can implement now.  As adults, let’s take the time to prepare young people to become caring, connected and capable adults.

For more information and resources about youth social emotional development in difficult times can be found at or by contacting your local county Nebraska Extension office.

Comfort in a Changing World Resources

The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard has some great resources.  This link is specific to resiliency but I would encourage you take some time to explore other parts of the website. which is a website supported by the United State federal government.  Its’ content was produced but multiple government agencies and has some excellent youth development resources.  This link is specific to resiliency.

Child Trends has some great work on resiliency. Here is a link to one of their resources.

Additionally, they have a great publication on youth and the COVID19 pandemic.

Lastly, this is a nice general resources on common mental health issues from Australia.  I have always found Australia to have outstanding youth resources.  (publication on anxiety and depression)






Parent & Child Care Provider Resources

The Learning Child team with Nebraska Extension provides affordable, research-based, educational programs, and resources. Information in each program is based on research from faculty right here at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The goal is to empower all adults who care for young children by providing high-quality professional development that sets the stage for lifelong learning, discovery, and success. The Learning Child (TLC) is here to help take what is learned from professional development and research and put it into practice.031F7806-4ADB-49E3-8C0B-6452F29C7D0E_1_105_c.jpeg

Communities caring for children and youth want answers regarding what to do before, during, and after an emergency event, disaster, or crisis. It is important to remember that all children and youth react differently to major changes in their lives. The Learning Child team has various resources that may be of help to adults and the families, children, and youth in the community.

Nebraska Extension’s Learning Child and 4-H Youth Development teams have developed a one page handout listing all of the resources.  This handout is electronically accessible and printable.  It is available in English and Spanish. To access the handouts please visit the BOX link and share it with those you feel may benefit.

Here are a few more resources that may be of help:

Helping Children Cope – Suggestions and Strategies

The most important way to support children and youth is to talk, comfort, and reassure them they are loved and supported regarding their experiences. Using children’s literature in an interactive way, caregivers can help children heal. The Learning Child team has identified books to support children’s coping and understanding of their feelings after experiencing a major stressor, disaster, loss, and/or grief. Free storybook reading guides accompany the books. The guides provide adults with suggested activities and probing questions to help children personally connect with the experiences of the characters in the books.

Parents and educators are in the best position to help children and youth cope. Nebraska Extension’s Learning Child in collaboration with 4-H Youth Development have developed a simple one-page handout that is electronically accessible and printable with online videos, classes, and activities for young children (birth to age eight) and school-age children. This website has resources to support children’s coping and understanding of their feelings. It is common for children and youth to experience grief, frustration, anger, and a lost sense of security after experiencing a major change, loss, or grief.

Online Professional Development – Childcare Providers

The Learning Child team provides automatically approved in-service hours with research-based information from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Nebraska Extension. Online offeringsprovide information and strategies on how to support the early growth and development of young children.

A Beautiful Day – Virtual early childhood space

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A Beautiful Day is a virtual early childhood space designed to connect with children and families in Nebraska and across the world. UNL faculty and collaborators created this space as a way to share ideas, to foster learning and play, and to support caregivers experiencing physical distancing. The team is creating and adding more videos on a regular basis. This space is a safe video based platform with no ads, to share ideas, foster learning and play, and to support all adults caring for children who are experiencing physical distancing.

Inspiration for A Beautiful Day came from Fred Rogers who said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” This project involves the following collaborators: Child, Youth and Families Studies, Ruth Staples Child Development Laboratory, College of Education and Human Sciences, Nebraska Extension, and the Buffett Early Childhood Institute.

Stay Connected as a Family – Celebrate your strengths!

Strong families have the ability to manage stress and crisis in their lives in positive, creative ways. There are strengths families use to create positive environments, however, to take care of your family and others, you must first take care of yourself. The Nebraska Extension team has compiled resources for family support and mental health for adults and families.

Readers may contact Lynn DeVries, Learning Child Educator at or members of the Learning Child interest group at if they have any questions about these resources.