Life’s Challenges

Helping Your Child Navigate Life's Challenges

OSU School Readiness

By taking action and seeking support we empower our children to thrive despite life's difficulties

Life can present unexpected challenges that impact our children, from witnessing violence to experiencing loss or neglect. Although we cannot remove all risk, parents can help children navigate life’s challenges and support their healing and resilience. (see also our section on resilience)

If you are in crisis call or text 988 or chat at

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can interfere with children’s immune system, brain development, emotions, and behaviors. This happens when ACEs cause trauma and children’s stress systems stay on high alert. Some common ACEs include: separation from parent due to divorce, death, or deportation, violence in family or neighborhood, bullying, discrimination, child abuse, child neglect, parent incarceration, substance abuse (drugs, alcohol) in household, and untreated mental illness of parent.

To learn more about child trauma and stress visit NCTSN or review this guide for parents.

Society can be unequal and parents cannot control all of their child’s experiences. But, as adult, we can take steps to support our children’s safety and healing to help them thrive in the face of adversity.

Options to support children’s safety and healing

One of the most powerful ways to help your child during tough times is by connecting with people and resources in your community.

Families have many options to support children’s safety and healing. Here are few.

By taking action and seeking support we empower our children to thrive despite life's difficulties

Focus on what you can control each day and celebrate even the smallest victories. Progress, no matter how incremental, contributes to your child's resilience and healing.

Remember, reaching out for help is a sign of strength, and together, we can create safe, nurturing environments for our children's vibrant futures.

Options to explore

Connect with people and resources

Connect with people and resources to get through a tough time or make a safety plan. Others can help us tackle big challenges one small step at a time.

Here are some ideas.

Family relief nurseries

Family relief nurseries support families through challenges, while focusing on their strengths. These nurseries can be invaluable resources for navigating difficult situations and promoting healthy child development. They can provide therapeutic child care, family support, and materials like diapers, food, and clothing.

Make a safety plan

Make a safety plan, or talk to someone about child and family safety. Safety planning is especially important in situations involving violence, abuse, or other dangers. This plan should outline clear steps like safe places to go, setting up signals with trusted individuals, or knowing whom to contact in emergencies.

Safety plan resources
Family safety resources

Family safety resources (digital safety, injury prevention, school safety, etc.)

Medical, food, financial assistance, or child care

Look into programs that offer help with medical, food, financial assistance, or child care. Applying for these benefits can alleviate some of the stress associated with challenging situations, ensuring your child's basic needs are met while you navigate through tough times.

Support children's healing

Support children's healing through relationships with caring adults and expressing feelings. Parents can do this in many different ways. Choose what works best for your family.


When your child is safe from harm, tell them they are safe. Repeat as needed. Reassurance is powerful.

Comfort and time

Comfort and spend time with your child for even a little bit each day. This can be playing together, snuggling up with a book, making art, cleaning, cooking, eating together, etc. Being present provides reassurance.

Read books with your child about emotions

Find local library. Ask your local librarian, teacher, or counselor for book ideas.

Websites for parents also have some good lists, such as Picture Books To Boost Social and Emotional Learning Skills.

Encourage your child to express their emotions safely

Encourage your child to express their emotions safely through pretend play, art, music, movement, conversation, dolls and stuffed animals. All emotions are important to feel and name. Some families find tools like an emotion wheel helpful to exploring emotions.


Look into counseling (such as play therapy or art therapy) for your child.

Support your own well-being and let others help too

Parents’ physical and mental health contribute to children’s health too, especially during hard times. Taking small steps like talking to someone, going for a walk, or visiting a place you feel you belong can make a big impact. You don't have to face challenges alone.

Here are some ideas

  • Spend a few minutes each week with a supportive friend, family member, or neighbor.
  • Find or attend a support group that’s a good fit for you. Many communities have groups for people with shared identities like parents, people of color, LGBTQ+, religion, or experiences like surviving various types of adversity.
  • Try to take 30 minutes three times per week to do something that brings you joy.
  • Visit 1 place each week where you feel you belong. This could be a store, a community center, a park, a friend’s home, a health office, a church, etc.

Reach out for support