10 Tips to Help Kids Handle Stress
Between schoolwork, grades, and peer pressure, kids are facing an increasing amount of stress. As a matter of fact, more children than ever are being treated for stress and anxiety. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that around 25% of kids 13 to 18 suffer from a lifetime prevalence of anxiety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been a substantial increase (about 28%) in suicide rates in adolescents aged 15 to 19 between 2007 and 2015.
Here are some ways that parents can help their kids cope with stress in a safe and healthy manner:
Encourage Kids to Face Their Fears
Rather than shield your kids from situations that cause anxiety, teach your kids to face their fears. Avoidance doesn’t do anything to reduce anxiety, rather it maintains stress levels so that you have an ongoing problem. Help your child reevaluate an anxiety-provoking situation by breaking it down into manageable steps (in cases like homework or test stress), by teaching them that mistakes happen and are recoverable, and by focusing on the positives. So much of anxiety is perceived stress rather than real stress. Teaching kids to control their negative thoughts and self-criticism is critical. You can validate your child’s emotions while at the same time, helping them to problem solve. Rather than swooping in to fix the situation, ask your child to come up with their own solutions to train their ability to problem solve on their own.
Help Them Get Organized and Streamlined
Sometimes, just getting organized and helping kids build the skills they need to stay on top of things at school can help stamp down stress levels. Homework planners, scheduled daily homework times, after school routines, and even a notebook where they can jot down activities can prevent them from feeling overwhelmed. Speaking of activities and schedules, while it’s important to teach your kids to face their fears, it’s also important not to overschedule them. If your child seems overwhelmed by the number of activities they’ve signed up for, teach them to prioritize the ones that matter most and scale back a bit as a whole.
Make Sure They Have Time to Play
Between school, sports, and extracurricular activities, life can be overscheduled for kids. Make sure they take time out every day to just be kids, and to go out and play with their friends. Any form of physical activity is good for stress-busting purposes. Maybe your child enjoys bicycle rides in the park. Maybe they like to go for walks in the woods or on the beach. Every child is different – find out what activities they love and make sure they are able to indulge. Keeping physically active helps, among other things, to release endorphins, “feel good” chemicals linked to lower anxiety levels. Free play also gives them time to decompress. If playdates aren’t always an option, time spent playing alone is almost just as good.
Sit Down and Talk about It
Just like adults, kids can feel better if they have the opportunity to talk about it. Make sure to connect over family dinners, an occasion which gives kids and parents time to touch base with one another and to relate the events of the day. When you sit down to eat, ask about how the day went and really listen to what your child says. This can help you pick up on anything that’s wrong.
Some kids, of course, are more private and will not use dinner time to sound off. If your child needs more coaxing, try talking to them on their own, while tucking them into bed at night, for example. Whenever and however you do it, simply keeping the lines of communication open on a daily basis can help you to evaluate your child’s feelings.
Keep in Touch with Teachers
Let’s face it – during the typical workweek, your teacher sees more of your child than you do! It’s essential to keep in contact regularly with your child’s teacher so if a problem arises, you will know about it right away. If your child is struggling with a certain subject in school or is having problems with another student for instance, your child’s teacher is likely to be a great resource when it comes to resolving the problem.
Drag out Your Yoga Mat
Schools all over the country are incorporating yoga into the curriculum and getting kids to practice right in class. Why? Several studies have shown that kids who do yoga have less stress and are better able to stay focused on their classes. Kaplan University, for instance, has a great article on the link between yoga and stress reduction for children.
If your school doesn’t have a yoga program, offer it at home. Find a short routine you and your child can practice together to help cut down on stress levels.
Children look to their parents for the appropriate way to react. If your child falls from a tree and you’re in a panic, your child will absorb that reaction. Keep your own reactions and emotions in check to avoid passing off your own anxiety to your children.
Let Them Sleep
Even slight sleep deprivation or poor sleep can affect memory, judgment and mood, making it harder to handle stress. Sleep helps the mind and body relax and rejuvenate. Not only does sleep give us the rest we need to better handle stress the next day, it also helps us to sort through stresses we’ve already had. In dream state, we problem solve and figure out solutions to issues we haven’t yet tackled in real life.
If your child is still struggling to cope with stress or anxiety, it may be time to seek out professional advice. There are many counselors who are trained just to work with children and who are sensitive to the challenges they face at particular phases in their development. Ask around and see who in your community is available and schedule an evaluation for you and your child. This evaluation could help define the problem and give you some clear ideas for resolving it.
Natural supplements for stress can be used for children as well as for adults. However, it’s essential to talk to your doctor and/or counselor before starting your child on any kind of supplement. This is especially true if your child is already taking daily medications such as those to help control asthma. Herbal supplements can react with some medications, so clearing it with a doctor first is always a good idea. Also, your doctor may consider some supplements to be more appropriate for children than others.
Stress is a real and serious problem – even for younger kids. While parents cannot take stressors like schoolwork or social pressures away, they can help give their kids the skills they need to deal with stress not only now but in the future.
How do you help your children deal with stress? Share your tips with us in the comments below!
Tags : life lessons health
Benefits of Yoga for Children, Kaplan University