Stress is pretty much an unavoidable part of life, and it’s no longer limited to just adults. These days, kids can feel stressed too!
In fact, childhood stress levels have increased greatly in the past few decades, with about 40% of kids reporting that they worry too much.
While a certain amount of stress can be good for teaching your kids to build resilience and cope with new situations, too much of it may harm your child’s development and affect their physical and emotional health.
What makes kids feel stressed out?
Kids may not have rent to worry about or bills to pay, but there are still plenty of other things in their lives that they may find stressful. Potential stressors may not all be negative, either – anything that brings about significant change to a child’s life could cause them to feel tense, anxious or worried, even if it’s meant to be positive.
Here are some common causes of stress in kids:
- Home environment
- Taking a test
- Birth of a sibling
How do I know if my child is feeling stressed?
Kids, especially younger children, may not be able to properly express when they are feeling stressed. As parents, we need to keep an eye open for any changes in behavior in our children and take note if they are displaying any symptoms of stress or anxiety.
Watch closely for the following signs or behaviors in your child:
- Stomach aches
- Mood swings
- Emotional outbursts
- Chest pain
- Social isolation
- Withdrawal from activities they normally enjoy
- Inability to focus
While negative behaviors may not always be linked to stress, they may be an indicator that something is wrong. If you notice any difference in how your child behaves, pay close attention and determine if a response or intervention is necessary.
How can I help my child relieve his/her stress?
As parents, our first instinct may be to try and solve all of our children’s problems for them. However, in the long run, this may not be the best idea. What you want to do instead is help your child learn to problem-solve and show them how to effectively manage their stress on their own.
Here are some great ways to decrease your child’s stress levels and help them cope:
1. Practice breathing exercises
The first thing you need to do when your child is stressed is help them to calm down. Recent studies have shown that transcendental meditation and breathing exercises can really help to lift kids’ moods, decrease their blood pressure, and even assist with overcoming ADHD symptoms.
Get your child to stop whatever they were doing and move somewhere quiet. Then have them sit down and breathe in deeply, hold their breath for a moment, and release it slowly. Repeat the exercise until they feel more relaxed.
2. Go out and exercise
Exercise is a great way to help your child channel their nervous energy and stress into something more productive. Physical activity will also release feel-good endorphins in their bodies that will help boost their mood and reduce stress.
Try to tailor the activity according to your child’s preferences. For instance, if they like being in nature and working with plants, you could get them to help you with weeding the garden. If they like running wild with other children, visit a nearby park or playground.
Some children may favor quieter indoor activities. If so, you could sign them up for a children’s yoga session, or let them express their creativity with an arts and crafts project.
3. Think positive
Positive thoughts have been proven to help relieve stress and anxiety. Teach your kids how they can replace their negative thoughts with upbeat, positive ones.
On your part, help them by practicing positivity and optimism in your life whenever possible. Your children will model what you do – so if they frequently see you reaching for the positive side in every situation, they’ll quickly learn to do the same.
4. Encourage good sleeping habits
One of the best cures for stress is a good night’s sleep – so help your child to practice good sleeping habits. Set a bedtime for your kids and stick to it (yes, even on weekends).
Develop a good pre-bedtime routine to help make it easier for them to relax and fall asleep. Also, make sure to ban mobile devices and video games from the bedroom at least half an hour before bedtime.
As parents, you can’t protect your kids from every problem that they encounter in life. But by teaching them healthy ways to deal with their stress and anxiety, you can better prepare them to face whatever may come their way.