How to Help Your Child Deal with Stress
As adults with responsibilities and bills to pay, many of us like to harken back to the days of our childhood when we had far fewer demands on our time. We may think of those times with a certain nostalgia, when the biggest worry was getting a homework assignment in on time.
But when we think this way, we often forget that as children we had stresses and anxieties too. We had to worry about whether or not we fit in with our peers, we had to do our homework and get good grades. Maybe our parents worried out loud about financial issues and that made us nervous too.
As our world becomes increasingly fast-paced and technological, it also becomes more complicated and more competitive. The kids today have more to worry about than we did as children, and many kids these days are overscheduled in an attempt to keep up with the quick pace of our modern world.
And just to add a sour cherry on top, we're in the middle of a pandemic. So, if you notice any stress or anxiety from your children, take a deep breath and remember that there's nothing wrong with them. Stress develops as a result of expectations and our ability to meet them. However, there are certainly ways to identify stress and anxiety in your children and to help them cope with it. We did some research on the matter and came up with what we hope is a helpful guide.
How do you identify stress or anxiety in your children?
The signs of stress may manifest in many ways. You may begin to notice mood swings or acting out or changes in sleep patterns. Some children will have physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches, while for others it may appear as difficulty concentrating on schoolwork, or even becoming withdrawn and wanting to spend time alone. Another symptom may be overreaction to minor problems. Some children may even begin wetting the bed.
In younger children, it may show in the form of thumb-sucking, hair-twirling, or clinginess. In older children they may begin to reject authority or even start to bully other children.
What can you do to help?
Firstly, making sure your child is getting good rest and nutrition is very important. But even more so, being available as a parent and guardian is one of the best things you can do to help reduce your child's stress.
It may be difficult to spend time playing and listening when you get home from work and you're tired and stressed yourself, but simply being there and available for your children from a young age will make all the difference. Kids need to know that there are people there who care about them and who are there to support them. If they feel they have this solid foundation from a young age, they may be better able to cope with stress throughout their lives.
As your children get older, don't stop making free time for them. Adolescence can be a confusing time, and knowing that their parents are there for them can help reduce stress and anxiety. Each day make quality time for your kids to talk with them about their day. Expressing an interest in your children's lives will help them see the world as a safe place where they belong, and will ease the way into talking about stressful situations when they arise.
When your child does approach you with a stressful situation, the first thing you can do is simply listen patiently. Maybe your child feels overscheduled or maybe there's an uncomfortable social situation going on in their lives. When you talk through these things together, you can better come up with solutions together. But most importantly, listening actively will boost your child's sense of safety and belonging in the world which will greatly reduce stress and anxiety in their lives. Sometimes all you need is a caring shoulder to lean on.
As we all know, some level of stress and anxiety is unavoidable in life. When you talk to your children about stressful situations, it helps to let them know that there is nothing abnormal about these emotions, and that emotions come and go. The important thing is how they cope and how they react to problems big and small.
Speaking of which… children may pick up on the levels of stress in your home and internalize it. Managing your own stress will create a more peaceful environment and will teach your kids firsthand what it looks like to deal with stress. This is especially important right now with the pandemic going on. We're all a bit worried and stressed out about the state of the world, but make sure that, if you do talk to your kids about these issues, that you do it in an age-appropriate and reasonable way.
These are definitely stressful times, and we hope that, as mothers, we can all get through this together by sharing tips and experiences. Please feel free to comment below about what you think and about how you help to manage your family's stress.