How can we teach our kids to deal with stress

How can we teach our kids to deal with stress

As we know from last week's blog, continues and toxic stress can have really negative effect on children's brain and overall development. So I think that as parents it is our responsibility to teach our children not only how to deal with stress, but what is mindful lifestyle all about. But before we get into this, we first need to look at what is causing stress in children, and what are some of the signs of stressed out children.

Just like adults, kids are all different - some will be more resistant to stress by nature, and others won't be! Also remember that what might be totally stressful to one child, might not be stressful to another! Because we are all so different, pretty much anything can be stressful, but some of the more common things causing stress are:

  • anything negative that happens within the family - fights, divorce, dead, etc
  • anything negative that happens at school - grades, being bullied, not being "in" or accepted by the peers, etc
  • overloaded schedule - when the child has no time for free play due to the many additional activities besides school
  • the self-inflicted pressure - this might come from the desire to fit or be best at school, or be accepted and respected by your own family
  • horror or scary movies -
  • headlines in the news - anything from natural disaster to terrorist attacks might cause stress and anxiety

Kids, especially young kids can't determine that they are stressed out. So it is our responsibility to know what are some of the most common signs to look out for:

  • any type of negative change in behaviour - acting out, mood swings, crying, not being interested in favourite activities
  • sleeping either too much or too little
  • being more attached to one of the parents then usual
  • some even complain about stomach-ache or headache, or some physical discomfort
  • withdrawal, general disinterest, or the desire to spend a lot of time alone
  • not being able to concentrate, or not being able to finish homework
  • start getting poor grades
  • smaller kids can start wetting themselves at night, or start sucking their thumb

So knowing all these, what can we do as parents to help our kids deal with stress, to help them learn how to listen to their bodies, to help them learn how to be more mindful and live more in the moment?

  • first and foremost, I think that it is extremely important to teach by example - I know this is harder done then said (been there, done that!) but manage your own stress first - be present in the moment, be aware of the now, exercise mindful eating as a family, meditate, do sports, show understanding and support
  • show (not tell, but really show) your children that you are there for them - make the time and conscious effort each day to spend quality time with them (no mobiles, no calls, no distractions). Listen to them, to their concerns, take them serious and help them find solution to every problem
  • talk to your child and see whether you can figure out together why he feels overwhelmed and stressed out - no judgment is needed here, just simply listen to what your child has to tell you, and then translate it accordingly and try to help them
  • accept your kids for who they are - a lot of times we have certain idea of what our kids should be, or should become.....but this might not be their reality. So it is essential that we as parents don't stress them out additionally by pushing our own agenda, but instead figure out what is their passion and support them 100%
  • reconsider their daily schedule - may be an activity or two can be dropped, so they can have a bit of time for free play, which is extremely important for their development
  • make sleep and healthy nutrition a priority - both are extremely important to feel your best at all times......even more so for kids that are growing and developing
  • make your child aware that being stressed out, and feeling overwhelmed is something normal, and pretty much everyone is experiencing this
  • teach them (by example) of how to live in the moment, how to be aware of the now, how to be mindful
  • teach your kids the importance of listening (and trusting) to their own body
  • look together with your child for some relaxation possibilities - anything from taking a walk, breathing techniques, to short meditation, listening to music, etc
  • let a child be a child - they need some free play time every day in order to be creative, so make sure that you give them the space for that
  • make them aware that mistakes will happen, and assure them that mistakes are the best way to develop, to improve and to grow...it is nothing to be worried about and nothing to be ashamed of

As you can see there are many ways (and the list is not complete by any means!) to teach our children how to deal with stress. Some of the things are obviously difficult to implement because some of us might have to change their whole thinking of parenting, but at the end of the day our kids need us to guide, teach and support them....and it is up to us what we make out of this opportunity!

Stay mindful,

Anna

 

Photo by © drubig-photo / Fotolia.com

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