Stress is a normal part of life. How we choose to deal with it, however, is an entirely different subject. As a parent or grandparent, it’s important to know how to help children deal with stress effectively.
Today it’s unusual to see a child simply relaxing. There are expectations from family, teachers, and friends, as well as technology and activities to keep them busy. Some studies suggest a third of all children suffer from undue stress. In fact, young children are beginning to show signs of chronic stress in ever-increasing numbers, enough to concern health professionals.
Listen to the child in your life and learn to recognize the symptoms of being overly stressed. They may act out, whine incessantly, or try to isolate themselves if they’re not verbal yet. Older children may show a lack of patience, become stubborn, or have trouble concentrating. They may also express physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach-aches, or lack of energy. Pay attention to the symptoms and try to determine if they’re caused by stress or if they’re simply misbehaving.
Teach your child to recognize the difference between being relaxed and being stressed. Explain how stress might make them feel tense or stiff like a piece of wood. Help them learn to relax by tensing their muscles and the letting the tension go. When they can tense and release their muscles at will, they’ll be able to learn to relax more efficiently.
Be available for them. Perhaps part of your child’s stress is caused by everyone in the family being too busy. Your child needs to know they can find you if they need you. You might want to reduce the number of activities your family is involved in so you’re more available for them. Take time to spend alone with them if you notice them starting to become apprehensive.
Try to be patient with them. The old saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day” can be applied to your child learning to deal with stress as well. Learning to deal with stress takes time and your child needs you to be patient with them while they learn.
Have some fun with your child. There is little that can beat laughter for reducing stress in children and in adults. Play games with them, watch silly movies, or just enjoy listening to their goofy jokes. You’ll both feel better and less stressed.
It’s important to remember that stress is common to nearly everyone. And while adults have years of experience dealing with stress, that’s not so for the children in their lives. Your child depends on you to help them learn how to deal with stress. This can begin at an early age and continue until they are in their teens. By the time they’re adults and able to better understand stress, they’ll have mastered dealing with it effectively.