Stress is a major problem in kids today, learn to recognize and respond to your kids so you can help
This generation of children is experiencing greater levels of stress than previous generations. Between social pressures, parental pressures, school, less supports and over scheduling we are seeing a generation of kids filled with worry and anxiety. In order to help your child with these stressors you must first be able to recognize the signs of stress in your kid. They may include:
1. Behavioral Signs- they may not have the words to tell you that they are stressed so they will typically “act it out.” This may include complaining, being defiant, showing less interest in activities and showing changes in appetite and sleep patterns.
2. Physical Signs- kids will often have headaches and stomach aches as a result of worries that they cannot manage. If your child is staying home a lot from school you may want to be sure that they are both medically and psychologically okay.
3. Emotional Signs- your child may say things like “no one likes me” or “I hate school…” they may seem irritable, cry easily, be clingy and have lower than usual energy. They will likely say they don’t know why they are feeling this way, which is typically true. They need help figuring out what stress is and how to manage it.
So, once you believe you have accurately recognized the signs of stress in your child you will need to do something about it. Parents often have a hard time knowing what to do. Here are the top 10 strategies that seem to work best with kids:
1. Listen to your child in a non-judgment way- this includes not overreacting to what they share and also not problem solving. This means you simply want to be present, show empathy and wait for the opening to brainstorm some solutions. Too often parents want to fix a problem and kids report that it actually just makes things worse. Take a deep breath and be patient, this will reap long term rewards in your relationship
2. Encourage them to just do it- If they are putting off homework or a project- encourage them to start it, so often this helps
3. Manage their schedule- don’t have too much going on at once
4. Manage distractions- mainly TV, video games, computer time, phone- these are known causes of stress despite many people using them as stress relievers
5. Sleep- be sure you child does not stay up too late, they should be getting about 10 hours of sleep every night
6. Deep Breathe- deep belly breathing is an effective, natural central nervous system calmer
7. Stay physically active- exercise is known to manage stress and anxiety. Your child should be getting 60 minutes of exercise daily
8. Journal- this can be an excellent outlet for expressing feeling and emotions through writing and drawing
9. Do relaxing things such as a bath, listen to music or do art- be sure you encourage your child to pay attention to what they experience as relaxing and when times are stressed remind them of these tools
10. Healthy diet- be sure your child eats proteins, vegetables, and whole foods that stabilize their blood sugar. They should also avoid caffeine which can make kids feel more nervous and disrupt their sleep pattern
Last, know when to seek professional help- if your child seems to be experiencing significant worries on a regular basis you may want to seek out a therapist. Just know that in many cases you can support your child through this time by paying attention to their signs of stress and worry and by responding with love, support and informed ideas. Also, the less stressed you are the easier it is to recognize the signs and help- so take good care of yourself too!