Helping your Child to Cope with Stress

Childhood Stress. What? That’s something only reserved for adults, right? Wrong. Children of all ages battle with stress from various everyday factors in their lives. Their angst is as real as ours when it comes to handling the abundance of tasks, tests, sporting events and peer pressure that’s thrown at them on a daily basis. Here are a few tips to help your young one manage things a little better.

Let’s first quickly examine a few telltale signs that your child may be experiencing stress and struggling to cope:

- Struggling to sleep
- Loss of appetite or alternatively comfort eating
- Not wanting to socialize
- Loss of or gaining weight
- Behaving differently: angry or looking sad, unhappy all the time
- Not wanting to go to school or see their friends
- Not wanting to do homework and avoiding it by all means possible
- Seeking out constant comfort and physical attention such as long hugs, out of the ordinary amount
- Becoming suddenly quiet and withdrawn

Now, let’s look at how we can help them:


1. Teach them to Prioritize:

It’s great being involved in lots of activities and sports, but when it starts to take up all your child’s time and leave them with no space for rest and relaxation then something’s got to go. Should your child be overloaded with extra murals and schoolwork, then sit down with them and decide what they can possibly cut down on. Do they really need to be doing 4 different sports at the same time as well as chess and choir? No child should take on so many things at once, they still need to be children as well and enjoy their youth and have fun.


2. Get organized:

Children today tend to feel very overwhelmed with the amount of things they need to constantly juggle. Plan a schedule for their week with all the activities such as school, sport etc that have set times. Then look at the remaining hours and what needs to be utilized for study and homework, and always make time for them to rest and have a breather. Much as we want our children to succeed, it is imperative that they have breaks as well to switch off and recharge. Make sure that when it is study time, however, that cell phones and TV’s are switched off and your child can focus on the task at hand. Having a schedule will also enable your child to feel in control and look forward to their down time each day.


3. Live a Healthy lifestyle and Exercise:

Eating copious amounts of sugar and junk food and ‘vegging’ out on the couch does not help with stress management. These bad habits, although enjoyable, leave you and your children feeling fatigued, useless and often depressed when the sugar high drops and the lack of exercise takes its toll on your body. As a parent, you need to insist of your child getting some form of exercise every day as well as following a healthy diet. Clean, fresh foods such as proteins, nuts, fruit and vegetables will leave your child feeling refreshed, full and good about themselves. Breaking a sweat and burning a few calories on a daily basis does wonders for stress levels for all ages, as your body releases endorphins which helps you to cope with stress. Encourage your child to go for a jog, run or swim in the pool.


4. Teach them to not always expect Perfection:

When children feel they have to perform at 110% all the time, they put a lot of pressure on themselves. This can cause a great deal of stress and that is not healthy to your child’s emotional or physical state. If your child tends to push themselves and not accept anything less than perfection, you have to step in. You need to ensure they know that you are happy and proud of them no matter what they do. We can’t all succeed at 100% all of the time and children should not have to. Relieving some of this unnecessary stress and pressure by letting your child know that it’s ok to sometimes come second or third will help them big time as they grow older.


5. Banish Negative self talk:

Your child may be going through a rough time and feel that their world is truly ending but in reality “this too shall pass” and you need to teach your children that. When they are having negative thoughts and self doubting, step in as the parent and remind them that they need to see things from a logical perspective. Yes, they might have failed their math test, but the exam is still coming and they have time to prepare and improve their results. Try to teach your children to turn their negative thoughts into solutions rather than dwelling on the issue and getting nowhere.


6. Break up the Task at Hand:

Being overloaded with homework and assignments can cause a great deal of anxiety, as your child won’t know where to start or how to go about things. When your child comes home with a myriad of tasks that need to be tackled all at once, let them take a minute. Have a breather and then sit with them and separate their work. Look at each subject one at a time and see what needs to be done by each. Then, divide that subject’s work into parts so that they know where to start and progress from. When tasks are broken up into steps and stages they become far less daunting and more manageable. This exercise will also help your child’s time management skills as they grow older.


7. Make time for Fun and Relaxation

Kids need to still be kids. Yes, we want our offspring to succeed to their fullest abilities and be all that they can be, and more; but they need downtime too. Children need to play games, run around outside and have fun with their friends in order to stay sane and re-energize themselves to continue performing. Ensure that your children are doing something that they enjoy on a daily basis and having time away from their books, phones, computers and all electronics, as this also prevents the brain from completely switching off.

Incorporate these 7 steps into your children’s daily and weekly routines and you will quickly see the difference.