You know your child better than anyone and you can see that he/she is overwhelmed. You are concerned that homework is taking longer than usual. Also, your child is crabby, irritable and not sleeping well. You’re worried…
Most of us probably think that childhood is a time when kids are carefree, having no worries or responsibilities, right? But, there is so much pressure to go and do CONSTANTLY. So, how do we teach our kids to deal with the “downs” so that they can enjoy the “ups?”
A national WebMD survey found that 72% of children have negative behaviours linked to stress, and that 62% have physical symptoms linked to it such as headaches and stomach aches.
Yes, kids experience stress too; they worry about doing well in school and getting along with friends. They worry about family and pets and can also experience acute periods of stress when a loved one dies or when their parents get divorced. Youngsters, unlike adults though, do not have the skills to understand and manage their stress in appropriate ways.
According to Lynn Lyons, psychotherapist and co-author of the book Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents; 7 Ways to Stop the Worry Cycle and Raise Courageous and Independent Children; kids that aren’t taught how to manage stress, will self-medicate with food, drugs or alcohol. They might reach for something to make them feel better right away, and usually it won’t be something healthy.
But, here’s the good news, dealing with stress is something that can be taught! Helping your kids to deal positively with stressful and tension causing events prepares them for healthy social and emotional development.
So, if you do spot the signs that stress is doing a number on your child, how can you make things better?
- Talk to them about their schedule. Cutting down on extracurricular activities will reduce stress and allow for some down time.
- Make time for play. No lessons, competitions or end goals. Younger kids will do this automatically, but older kids forget how to simply play. Ride your bikes, go hiking…
- Ensure that your child gets enough sleep and proper nutrition. When kids are healthy it’s easier to cope with the stressors of everyday life.
- Encourage exercise. This is a great way to relieve stress and release those feel good endorphins.
- Just breathe. Teach them relaxation techniques such as taking 3 deep breaths, counting down from 10, or going for a walk.
- Model healthy coping skills. Do you go for a run or listen to music whenever you’re stressed? Show them healthy ways to deal with stress.
- Be there, always. You’re presence counts. Keep the lines of communication open.
- Show them it’s OK to be imperfect. Remind them that they’re not supposed to do everything right. Teach them to laugh often.
- Stop the chaos. Chaotic mornings set the tone for the rest of the day.
- Have some comfort rituals. Kids need to stay grounded and need some comfort rituals that they can rely on when the outside forces in their lives weigh them down. Having dinner together as a family is a good start.
Teaching kids how to deal with stress is not about making everything “smooth and comfortable”. It’s about teaching them to problem-solve, plan, and know when to say yes and no to activities and commitments.
Remember, stress will always be a part of their lives; one of the most important life skills is coping with stressful situations.
Source: www.heysigmund.com, kidshealth.org, www.quickanddirtytips.com, www.foxnews.com, www.webmd.com, psychcentral.com, pubs.ext.vt.edu, www.toyourhealth.com, www.scanva.org, theinspiredtreehouse.com, www.healthychildren.org, www.mommyedition.com