Helping Your Young Child Deal With Stress
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how stressful life can be, especially today. It feels like every day brings a new onslaught of potentially world ending disasters, and it can be hard for any of us to cope. What you might not be thinking about is the stress that this puts your children under.
While they may not understand everything that’s happening, the quarantine, the back to school confusion, the civil unrest, all these things can still be stressing your children out.
How to recognize stress in children?
It can be more difficult to recognize stress in children than in adults for some obvious reasons. Children are worse at expressing their emotions coherently, and may not even recognize how they’re feeling themselves.
Stress can present in a couple different ways, both mental and physical. Mood swings, misbehaving, disrespecting authority, and general unruliness are all potential mental symptoms of stress. Physically, kids may have stomach or headaches, or they may have trouble sleeping.
How to deal with stress?
This is a tricky question. The best answer is to find the source of the stress and fix it.
Unfortunately, the issues that your child is facing are likely issues that you can’t fix, e.g. the pandemic or the school closure. The next best thing is finding methods to mitigate that stress.
Make sure your children are getting enough sleep
Sleep is crucial, even during the best of circumstances. It’s time for the human body to recharge, replenish, and refresh, and it’s truly irreplaceable. While stress may make it more difficult to get your kids to sleep, you should still be trying your best to get them down.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you just how wonderful sleep is, but I’m going to list a few benefits anyway. Sleep enhances pretty much all our mental faculties. It sharpens focus, improves alertness, boosts your mood, and in children it’s crucial for growth. It’s also time for the body to reset.
Tired children are known to “act out” which can increase your stress levels and, in turn, increase your child’s stress levels. So, one of the best things you can do for your entire household is ensure that everyone is well rested.
Make sure they’re eating right
When kids get stressed, they’re more likely to act out. Sometimes when that happens, parents will start giving in to appease them. More snacks, more treats, anything to buy a moment of quiet. And while that may seem like a good idea at the time, keeping your kids on a healthy diet will make them feel better physically, which will in turn make them feel better emotionally.
While there are more specialized places to go for nutritional advice, we can offer a few simple tips here. Make sure to balance out their diet. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing, so throwing in fruits, veggies, nuts, meat, and carbs is a must. Treats and desserts are helpful for keeping morale up in the short term, and so shouldn’t be eschewed entirely, but moderation is key.
These first two tips are crucial, and they come together to form the basis of tip three.
Keep it consistent
One of the best things you can do for your kids is keep them on a consistent schedule. Have them eat at the same time, sleep at the same time, work at the same time, and play at the same time. Knowing what comes next will do wonders for easing their stress, and once they figure the schedule out it’ll make your life easier too.
A repeatable, consistent schedule unburdens the mind, both yours and your kids. While the kids may resist the idea initially, it’s worth pushing through. It can even be a good idea to explain to them some of the benefits of a consistent schedule, assuming they’re old enough.
Model good behavior
One of the best things you can do for your kids is take care of yourself. Not only will that enable you to be a more effective parent, but it will provide an example for your kids. Watching you take care of yourself will teach your kids tools and strategies for taking care of themselves, at least subconsciously.
Reassure them that their feelings are normal
It’s easy to feel like you’re alone in your mental health struggles, especially in kids. It’s important to let them know that what they’re feeling is natural, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. If a child feels like there’s something wrong with them because they are feeling stressed, that’s likely to compound their negative feelings, and can even outgrow the original feelings of stress themselves.
Meditation may seem a little high concept for kids, especially young ones. But there’s a reason that people have been meditating since time immemorial. It works. While children may not understand the full spiritual implications of meditation, it can still work as a breathing exercise, and as a time of reflection and calm.
If you already meditate, let them sit in and watch. Just spending some quality time with you will help, even if they aren’t quite ready for that kind of elongated silence. If you don’t already meditate, now is the perfect time to start. It’ll help you manage your own stress, which in turn will help you mitigate the stress of your children, and it’ll help set a positive example for your kids on how to deal with negative emotions.
It’s never easy to deal with stress, now especially.
Using these tips will help you manage your household and walk your kids through a difficult time. Every member of the family unit is important here.
Because we are spending so much time together, our moods start to affect each other. If you or your kids start feeling down, it can start a chain reaction that spirals your family down. Instead of allowing that to happen, use these tips to steer your household in the right direction and take care of your family.
If you are concerned that your child is not dealing well with stress, contact us for a free consultation.