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September 19, 2012

Kids and Stress

Image: Flickr/Leonid Mamchenkov

Image: Flickr/Leonid Mamchenkov

Stress is a part of everyone’s life even kids and even more so with a new school year just beginning. Don’t think that because they are young that they don’t know what it feels like to be anxious and stressed about situations that come into their daily lives. What they might not know is how to deal with it constructively. That is where you come in as a parent who can help them gain the skills they need to constructively deal with stress and anxiety.

What is Stress?
Stress is our response to situations that occur in our lives. The responses are physical, mental, financial and spiritual.  Many of the physical changes take place involuntarily. For instance, you get stomach cramps when you think about having to deal with a difficult coworker.  I am sure nearly everyday we encounter different scenarios that fall into the stressful category.
It works the same for kids except that they lack the experience to put their feelings and situations into words. For this reason, many parents may think their kids are not experiencing stress at all but may consider it to be something else. But, they don’t have to struggle with bills or a job to have the results of their stress manifest in their young lives.  Today, our kids are bombarded with pressure from peers, school, sports and sometimes even with expectations and situations in our own homes.
How to Help your Child Cope with their Stressors
Learning how to help your child will take a practiced eye on your part. Get to know your child’s moods so you can discern when something is up with them.  More than often a mom has that key intuition that is triggered when something is not right.  Don’t ignore that – ask questions and try to initiate conversation to uncover the stressor.
Think about how stress affects you. Are there sleepless nights? How about poor eating habits or headaches from not eating at all? Are you sick all the time or cranky at the least little thing? Recognize the signs of stress.
No one wants their child to suffer discomfort. If you see that something is different about them, here are some ways to help them articulate what they are going through.
Notice what is going on – This involves telling them that you have noticed they have changed in some way.   Let them know you are concerned and want to help if you can. This could be the doorway that allows them to open up to you.  Be careful to not pressure and nag for them to let you in.  This will only make the situation more difficult.
Listen without judgment – Practice listening to them. Try not to let your emotions show on your face. This is where being a ScreamFree Parenting really comes into play.  Keeping your emotions in check to response rather than react will let them know they can trust you to not blow up.  Let them speak without interruption. Consider everything that they have said before speaking in response.
Help them sort out their feelings – Kids may not know what they are feeling. You can put a word to their emotions so they can better express themselves now and in the future. For example, if they don’t know which way to go then they are experiencing confusion.
Come up with solutions together – Brainstorm with them about ways to solve the issue they are facing. If one doesn’t work, reassure them that you can try another.  Ask questions to get them into the problem solving mode rather than you just giving them your ideas.
Comfort them –Sometimes nothing needs to be said. They just want their parent to give a big hug.
Teach coping skills –Burn off steam through exercise or some other activity you can do as a family. Exercise has been known to reduce stress levels.
Kids get stressed – there are many situations they will be faced with that contribute to stress.  As a parent, you can do more to help them than others, so tune in now in order so they may learn appropriate ways to cope with stress.
Susan Heid is the mom behind The Confident Mom where she loves inspiring moms to make small changes managing their home and family life giving them more time, order and less stress! As a Certified Parent Coach, Family Manager Coach and ScreamFree Certified Leader she enjoys sharing her expertise with moms through workshops, individual and online group coaching.  She is a proud mother of 4, married to her very own prince charming, loves coffee, cloudy days, and does think the “bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle.”


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