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 of our children experience it too. They may feel that they have too many commitments, clash with their peers, or feel that they do not live up to your expectations, all of which can make them anxious. Although it is normal for children to be stressed about something, it's important to control 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 Overschedule
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 overschedule activities and events for their kids, when in fact all the child may 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 to stay focused and ready for whatever's next. It is best to try and get your kids to spend their downtime away from the television or computer, because this is just further stimulating their brains. Try reading a book with them or sitting down to 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 we need to get done. However, as they grow, it is important that the parent become 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 the playtime, so that the child does 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 feeling 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 sports practices 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 that will stimulate 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, but 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 the junk 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 your state, when you were 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 stressful 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 the parents need to ready the kids (most of the time) as well as ready themselves 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. 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, makes 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 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 in that they know that they have someone to talk to, and someone who will 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 your or even stress you out to see your child anxious and unsettled, but that is exactly that 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 your child manage their stress now and in the future.