When many of us hear the word ‘stress’, we might be inclined to associate it with adult life, busy work schedules, financial woes etc. However, it’s essential to be mindful that stress can (and does) affect children just as much as adults. Apart from the obvious sources like school or peer pressure, kids can also get stressed over what they hear in the news, family strife, or even pick up on their parents’ stress. It’s important to recognise this and help alleviate it where you can.
Let’s take a look at 10 ways you can help your kids cope with stress,
1. Encourage your child to engage in physical activities ― the release of endorphins will help combat stress. Some kids already love sports activities, and that’s great; just make sure it’s not all about competition. Please encourage them to enjoy the activity for its own sake. And for those less sporty kids, you can still encourage them to go for a walk, run, cycle. Go with them, make it an adventure. Perhaps you could explore a local woodland and try to find different types of trees or creatures. Or maybe a pleasant coastal walk. Cities can be full of fascinating historical features too. The world is truly your oyster.
2. Look at your child’s routine and schedule. A balance is needed here ― perhaps they don’t have enough routine that allows them to become ill at ease ― endless boredom can become overwhelming in itself and potentially cause stress and anxiety. On the other hand, it’s essential not to make schedules too extreme or even overly hectic by including things like sports practice, dance classes, and extracurricular activities on top of everything else they have to do during their day.
3. Talk about current events. The world is a turbulent place, perhaps more than ever these last few years. They mightn’t let on, but kids can get stressed out over what they hear in the media or during discussions at school. Talk about these issues, perhaps bring them up at the dinner table. Help them realise that, whatever happens, they’re not on their own and how other people have similar concerns.
4. Encourage your child to embrace creative outlets. This could include drawing, painting, singing, writing, maybe even making a short film if you have the technology there. Your child doesn’t have to be the next Picasso or Mozart ― even scribbling or humming out a tune can be a great stress relief and allows them to unleash and unlock bottled up emotions and stress.
5. Monitor their sleeping patterns. We all need a good night’s sleep, and kids are no exception. Teens should be getting 10-12 hours of sleep a night, with 9-12 hours recommended for 6-12-year-olds. Mobile devices and other screens can hinder them, so encourage them to switch off all devices an hour before bed. It also helps not to allow any snacks at the same time. Oh, and this advice goes for adults too. 🙂
6. Encourage your kids to eat healthily. Eating the wrong foods, not eating enough, and overeating can negatively impact stress levels for adults and kids alike. You can go a step ahead and encourage your children to try new foods. Feeding their imagination by exposing them to exciting flavours, colours, and textures can help them get accustomed to eating healthy at an early age.
7. Time is precious, so share it with them. Understandably, we won’t always spend time with our kids that we might like to with hectic modern work schedules. However, it’s crucial to allocate an amount of time each day to spend with them. Find out what’s going on at school, with their friends, etc. There may be things going on that are causing (or have the potential to cause) them stress. Maybe a friend’s parent is very sick and they’re worried it will happen to you, for example. This is something you really need to be in on so you can talk about it with your kids before it becomes a big issue.
8. Normalise stress and mental health issues. Have regular conversations about it. There is, unfortunately, still a stigma out there about mental health issues, and it’s very important that your child knows that there’s nothing wrong or weak about feeling stressed or anxious. Let them know that they’re far from the only ones. Talk about examples of stress, maybe even give them examples of how it’s happened to you. See if they can identify examples of how their friends might be or even characters on TV. All this will help normalise it and remove the stigma.
9. Practice mindfulness with them. Mindfulness is a life skill that can help combat stress and negative thought patterns. There’s plenty of helpful articles and videos out there on the subject. If you haven’t practised it yourself, it could even be a great learning experience that you and your child can embrace together.
10. Emphasise that life isn’t always about winning. Whether it’s a sports match, dance recital or school exam, make sure your children know that your love is unconditional. While you want them to do their best, their performance in a competitive field won’t change anything and that it does not reflect their value as a person.
These are just some ways that can help you alleviate stress in your children’s lives. As mentioned at the start, it’s crucial to be mindful that adult stress can pass on to kids, apart from more obvious sources like school and competitive fields they engage in. It’s critical to give them time each day and keep yourself updated with what’s going in their lives outside the home.