Parent Survival Guide: Simple Stress Management Strategies for Kids
Lack of sleep can cause children to become easily frustrated and will decrease their coping ability
Is your 5 year old biting her nails excessively? Is she easily irritated? Has she started wetting the bed? Chances are your little one could be feeling stressed. Signs of stress in children can manifest in physical and behavioral changes1. Each child can respond very differently to stress, and as parents, we need to empower our children with tools that they can access when they feel overwhelmed or anxious.
Stress is unavoidable in our lives and of course not all stress is bad. In small amounts it can motivate us and help us rise to the challenge of our often frenetic lives. But understanding how we respond to stress can play a huge role in our health; and that understanding may sometimes be more important than the stressor itself. So how can we proactively work with our young children today to make them more resilient to life’s setbacks, surprises and challenges?
Teach them a few strategies they can incorporate into their lives.
Here are a few to get started:
● Make sure your child is getting adequate sleep. Lack of sleep can cause children to become easily frustrated and will decrease their coping ability (JCSM, 2016). Focus on getting your child on a regular sleep schedule and practicing good sleep hygiene.
● Encourage playtime and exercise. Study shows that exercise can play a key role in helping children cope with stressful situations by decreasing stress hormones while increasing our happy hormones (Science Daily, 2013). So find what works for your family and get moving! How about riding bikes, playing catch, taking a yoga class together or just heading out for a walk?
● Teach your child coping strategies. Discover what it is that helps your children release stress and show them the connection. While one child may find enjoyment and feel a deep relaxation from drawing, another may find the same from playing the piano. Explore journaling and invite your child to discuss what their stressors are so that they feel supported.
● Model the behavior you wish to see in your children. If we show our children how we calmly address stressful situations, they are more than likely to follow. Show your children humor in life and laugh at certain situations so they realize that life doesn’t have to be so serious.
● Practice a mindfulness activity together. Try apps like Calm or Headspace or practice simple breathing techniques (that you can find on YouTube or Soundcloud) that your child can access when feeling emotions of stress. Something as simple as an inhalation with a count to 4, followed by an exhalation to the count of 6 can shift the energy from a state of stress to a state of calm within just seconds.
As adults, we know that stress is inevitable and according to mental health surveys, today’s teens and young adults are more anxious than ever (Pew Research Center, 2019). Start early by implementing a few of these simple tips to teach children that difficult situations will arise and that it is a normal part of our existence. Through supportive parenting, challenges when handled with effective coping strategies can allow for positive growth and develop resilience in our children that will carry forward into adulthood.
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