Stress significantly affects children in a multitude of ways including physical health, mental health (thoughts and feelings) and behavioral health. Stress that's left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Chronic stress can also lead to anxiety, lack of motivation or focus, impairments in executive functioning, as well as other mental health issues. Here are a few quick and easy ways parents can alleviate stress in their children’s lives.
Manage your own stress levels: Children are more perceptive than you may think and your anxiety can be contagious. If you as a parent are feeling overwhelmed, it may impact the way your child is feeling. Here are a few ideas of ways parents can deal with issues of their own stress.
Slow down and pack less in to every day: Review your children’s weekly schedule. How many times a week is everyone home for dinner? What should the latest after school activity get your child home by? What is the right balance? Research shows that _# of dinners at home per week lead to…..
Recognize stress in your children: Look for changes in eating and sleeping patterns, upset stomach, social withdrawal, lack of motivation or difficulty in focusing. Start a daily health diary to record behavioral patterns of your child so that you can track and analyze trends better. Keeping a stress diary for a few weeks is an effective way to help you become more aware of the situations which cause you or your kids to become stressed out.
Statements of validation: Comment briefly on the feelings you think your child was experiencing. Statements of validation are simple ways to ensure the child feels he or she is being heard and understood. For example, you might say "That must have been upsetting," "No wonder you felt mad when they wouldn't let you in the game," or "That must have seemed unfair to you." Doing this shows that you understand what your child felt, why, and that you care. Feeling understood and listened to helps your child feel supported by you, and that is especially important in times of stress. To read more about effective and empathetic language to use with children who may be feeling stressed click here.
Expand your emotional vocabulary by labeling emotions and feelings: Many younger kids do not yet have words for their feelings. If your child seems angry or frustrated, use those words to help him or her learn to identify the emotions by name. Putting feelings into words helps kids communicate and develop emotional awareness — the ability to recognize their own emotional states. Kids who can do so are less likely to reach the behavioral boiling point where strong emotions come out through behaviors rather than communicated with words. Attached is the Meeting House Emotional Vocabulary that we are building for our students:
Introduce relaxation and mindfulness: Have your child relax with a daily, easy to execute stress reduction technique. There are many tried and tested ways to reduce stress so try a few and see what works best for you. To read more about relaxation techniques for kids click here.