You might think – stressed out kids? What do they have to be stressed about? Interestingly enough, children do experience stress though they do not always have the language to express themselves. Pediatric stress can manifest in ways ranging from behavior issues and bedwetting, to nail biting, nightmares and acting out.
Here are some basics to keep stress to a minimum.
Sleep – Make sure children are getting the recommended amount of sleep for their age range. Just like adults – some kids will need slightly more or slightly less sleep than recommended. Kids may also need more sleep when fighting getting sick or going through a growth spurt. Teach them to listen to their body cues for rest.
Overscheduling – In the age of homework, after school activities and parties – we often feel compelled to say yes to it all. However in doing so – our mental health and that of our kids can take a toll. When in doubt roll back on some commitments and make more time for unstructured play. It’s okay – and even healthy for kids to be bored.
Physical activity – with childhood obesity reaching epidemic proportions, and screen time dominating the preferred activity list for most kids – getting their bodies moving is even more important. This doesn’t have to be a coordinated sport, but can take the form of whatever is easy and fun for your kids. Some ideas include hula-hoops, jump ropes and good old-fashioned tag. Hit up the local park if weather permits.
Unstructured social time and play – childhood development thrives on unstructured play. This is vital to help them process their immediate world, experiment with new words and thoughts and use their imagination.
Get in front of the issue: Teach children healthy coping skills
Let’s face it, we’re all going to experience stress at some point in our lifetimes. Be it school or job stress, moving, change in family dynamics or health issues, stress is universal. How we handle it can make all the difference in our physical and mental well-being. Coping skills ingrained in early childhood can stick with them for years to come. Here are some of our favorite coping skills .
Talking– keep those lines of communication open and try to focus 100% on your children when they are speaking to you and sharing what’s on their mind. One way to make this a priority is to make a quiet routine check in before bed – kids can get pensive at this time – just like adults – and giving them the space to tell you what’s on their mind can make all the difference in knowing what is important to them. Another idea is to make mealtime tech free and encourage non-judgmental and open chats during meals.
Reading – choose books that may describe the issue that is causing your child stress. You can then speak about the book and the characters in a less threatening way than the issue straight on. It will often encourage them to open up.
Music therapy – music can help us connect with our emotions – it’s never too early to learn this powerful tool – both in playing and listening to it.
Mindfulness – there are wonderful programs and videos that can introduce children of all ages to mindfulness and relaxation techniques. Sometimes videos here are more successful at connecting the dots.
Physical activity – again – so important for so many reasons including bone and muscle development, healthy weight, sleep, stress reduction and blood sugar regulation. Find safe activities that your children like and don’t be afraid to mix it up. If space is at a premium or parks aren’t available – jump ropes, hula-hoops and makeshift hopscotch can fit the bill.
Writing/drawing it out – art therapy can be helpful especially if the child is having a hard time finding language to express themselves.
Animals – who doesn’t love petting a sweet animal? Children can benefit from this – even if it is a visit to your local shelter or pound.