Stress and anxiety are, unfortunately, a big part of this modern era. Many of us may experience anxiety every day, but it is important to remember that many children experience it too. They may feel that they have too many commitments, clash with their peers, or feel as though they don't live up to your expectations, all of which can make them anxious. Although it is normal for children to be stressed out about something, it's important to keep tabs on their anxiety as much as possible.
Here are some ways to help your children manage their stress levels that will make their lives, and your lives, much easier.
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1. Don't Over-schedule
Much of the time, we will do anything in our power to keep our children busy so that they don't sink into a spell of boredom. Yet as a result, many parents over-schedule activities and events for their kids, when in fact all the child may really need is a bit of downtime.
According to many child psychologists, having too much on their plate is actually one of the major stressors for children. Kids really do need downtime to rejuvenate their brains and bodies and to stay focused and ready for whatever's next. It's best to try and get your kids to spend their downtime away from the television or computer, because this is just stimulation for their brains. Try reading a book with them or play a family game - these kinds of activities will help them feel relaxed and at ease.
2. Playtime is Important
Just as over-scheduling can be dangerous for a child's stress levels, so can forced play. Forcing them to play will make them feel stressed or even make them feel like an annoyance.
With smaller children, it is easier to remain disengaged from their playtime and finish what you need to get done. However, as they grow, it is important that the parent becomes more involved in the child's playtime as they need that extra encouragement. Try going for a bike ride with your child after work, or finding a sport that you both enjoy and can pursue together. Also, there shouldn't be a lesson at the end of playtime, so that they do not get stressed out by the competition.
3. Get Your Rest
While this is probably not news, a good night's sleep is essential for keeping children relaxed and ready to take on the day. It may be that your child is not getting enough sleep because they are overburdened with too many sport activities or birthday parties, so it is important to put your foot down and demand that they get their rest, even between fun activities.
Unlike us adults, it is recommended that children get about 8-9 hours of sleep each night, so even if they aren't ready, try and get them to bed before 9 pm. It's also a good idea not to allow a television or other electronics in the child's room, as this will stimulate their minds and keep them up at night. Encourage them to read a book (or read to them) until they fall asleep.
4. Help Them Listen to Their Bodies
Stress is not only apparent in our mental states, it is also clearly expressed in how our bodies function. Some of the most common signs of stress in children are constant stomach aches (which should be checked by a doctor to make sure they aren't ulcers), repeated headaches, and even extreme eating patterns of over- or under- eating.
If your child experiences these symptoms of stress, explain to them that the body reacts to heightened stress and that they should be aware of their bodies. This means regularly seeing a doctor when needed, and making sure they eat healthy, energizing foods full of vitamins that will keep them alert and healthy. In general it is best to cut out junk food entirely.
5. Keep a Hold On Your Stress
This tip may be obvious to some, but your stress levels play an important role in your child's anxiety levels. If you are feeling stressed and begin to express it, your child may soon start to feel anxious and confused. If you thought that kids don't pay attention to their parents, then you are wrong.
If you are an impatient parent that tends to be stressed out, it is important to try and collect yourself when you are in front of your child. Raising your tone or acting too stressed will discourage your kid from discussing their problems and sharing things with you, which could have a serious detriment on your relationship.
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6. Wake Up to an Uncluttered Household
Mornings are generally the most stressful time in every household, as parents need to get their kids ready (most of the time) as well as get ready themselves, prepping for the day ahead. If the house is cluttered, that may also make you and your children feel stressed in the morning. A famous phrase - an uncluttered house leads to an uncluttered mind - is right on point here. Same goes for your children, even if they seem to relish the clutter. So try and schedule cleaning duties for evening times.
7. Mistakes Happen
One of the hardest lessons for kids to learn is that they, like every other human being, make mistakes. The thought or idea of making a mistake can haunt some children and stress them out. It is important to remind them that no one is perfect and that not everyone knows how to do everything perfectly right.
Make an effort to teach your children about good decisions and give them the confidence that they are on the right path. If you are over-critical with your children, they may begin to develop anxious behavior, which can backfire later on. So relax and don't fret over spilled milk.
8. Listen To Your Child
When your child expresses a feeling or wish, no matter how outlandish or non-relatable, make sure that you address it. Ignoring your child or belittling what they have to say will make them feel nervous or stressed.
Open your ears to your child's comments and feelings, and even try to get them to express the way they are feeling or what they have to say in different ways. This will trigger your child's desire to express and give them a feeling of peace as they know that they have someone to talk to, someone who will really listen.
Photo: David Castillo Dominici/ freedigitalphotos.net
9. Patience Really Is a Virtue
Although you've heard it a million times, when it comes to raising children, patience really is a virtue. It may hurt you or even stress you out, to see your child anxious and unsettled, but that is exactly what your child does not need to see. Don't try to fix every problem, but instead, try to help your child become a solid problem-solver.
The battle against child and adolescence stress can be a tough one, but truly the most important advice we can give you is to be patient and teach coping strategies that will help them manage their stress now and in the future.