Does your child often get sick, or do they constantly whine and cry? Do they bite their nails, act out or often throw tantrums? Then your child may be stressed. Here is a simple guide on how to handle this and change things around for the better.
The first step is to stay calm. If you become frazzled, your child’s stress level will only increase. You know the scenario – child falls and doesn’t flinch…until he hears his mother’s gasp.
The second step is to try and identify the reason behind your child’s stress. This way you will be able to develop a specific plan to reduce or eliminate it.
Here are the most common reasons children are stressed. Remember, even small babies and children can be stressed.
Overload: too many activities with no time to relax. (over-scheduled). This can refer to a baby or toddler registered in too many classes all the way to a school-aged child who has too many after-school activities.
Real-World Events: scary nightly news or exposure to world events
Trauma: divorce, accident, death in family
Peer Problems: peer pressure, bullying, rejection
Appearance: Concern with clothes, weight, appearance, fitting in
School: Grades, homework, over emphasis on performance by parent or teacher
Unrealistic Expectations: too pressured, standards too high in relation to ability
Home Problems: divorce, illness, a move, financial strain, stressed parents, sibling rivalry
After having identified the potential cause or causes of your child’s stress, move onto step three, which is to come up with a plan as to how you can reduce or eliminate the stress. Here are some things to consider working on:
1. Set a good bedtime routine.
Heavy workloads and over-scheduling can deeply affect a child’s sleep patterns. Without a good night’s sleep of at least 9-11 hours a night, stress can build. Sleep experts suggest turning off all electric items 30 mins to 1 hour before bed.
2. Turn off, eliminate, or ask for help to reduce potential stressors.
Keep the news and your adult conversations out of your child’s environment as much as possible. Hearing you discuss politics, the economic crisis or the recent death toll from a natural disaster can really stress some children. Also, ask yourself, “Is there too much yelling in our home?” Another solution to different types of problems could be to hire a tutor to help your child with homework.
3. Cut out one or more activities.
Evaluate your child’s daily schedule of school, home and extracurricular activities. How much free time does your child have left?
4. Create family routines and rituals.
Routines and rituals help reduce stress because it boosts predictability for kids. Not only will family meals, bedtime rituals, nighttime stories, hot baths, hugs and back rubs reduce stress, they will create lasting family memories.
5. Monitor TV viewing.
Kids say one big stressor to them is watching the news without an adult being there to explain late-breaking news events. We ALL could stand to watch less news as it does little to help us – limit TV or at the least, be there to help explain events that your child may see.
6. Teach your children to repeat the phrase, “I can handle this” when they begin feeling stressed, as well as to take 5 slow deep breaths when they feel overwhelmed.
Finally, the most helpful thing you as a parent can do to reduce the amount of stress your child has is to learn and practice ways of reducing your own stress. After all, less stressed parents = less stressed kids – that’s a fact.