Kids today suffer far more stress and burn out than you did when you were their age. While no life is completely stress-free, too much stress is as damaging to your kids as it is to you. When your kids are stressed, it’s hard for your life to be peaceful as well.
Stress is part of your life even during happy times such as weddings, graduations, or even parties. This sort of stress is positive in nature but must be balanced nonetheless.
Summer vacation is often a relaxed time for kids, filled with lots of fun activities and time for respite. Now that the school year is about to start (or maybe even has started), kids are already starting to feel the pressure, stress, and anxiety that so often accompanies the school year.
It’s important that you avoid minimizing the impact of stress in your child’s lives. Long-term stress has serious mental and physical health consequences, including an effect on their ability to concentrate. Stress even increases kid’s risk for anxiety disorders and clinical depression.
Parents can help their kids by recognizing when their stress levels get too high. You can also help them incorporate stress-busting habits into their lives. Not only will these tools help them throughout their K-12 experiences, but they will be able to take advantage of these tools when they go on to college and into the workforce.
First, as much as you want your kids to tell you when they’re feeling stressed, they won’t always do so. Some kids just don’t even know how to recognize what stress feels like. Others may not feel like confiding in you even if they told you everything in the past. They may be trying to solve things on their own. Some may even feel they are too “grown up” to need your help.
If you keep your eyes open to changes in their behavior, you can help your kids identify when they are stressed and how that feels. Being able to recognize the feeling is the first step in being able to shift it.
Signs of stress in your children can include changes in behavior such as withdrawing from activities they used to enjoy, hiding out in their room, or being more grumpy or sad than usual. Even a change in posture or less attention to physical appearance could be indicators.
There may be physical signs as well. Are your children losing or gaining weight? Complaining about head or stomachaches? These are physical symptoms of too much stress.
When you notice signs of stress, encourage your children to check in with their Internal Guidance System. Are they feeling happy or less than happy,and what are they wanting? This will not only help them identify if they’re stressed, but it will help them discern between too much stress and the good stress that is related to excitement or challenge-related nervousness.
Their IGS will also help guide them on how to handle their stress best. What works for you may not work as well for them.
That being said, here are some suggestions for keeping stress at bay, and reducing it if it does get to be too much:
1. Get out! Getting fresh air and sunshine is wonderful to reduce stress and lift your spirits. This can be active time or a time of quiet, a few minutes in your own backyard, or an afternoon hike. Encourage your kids to be active!
2. Maintain healthy eating and drinking habits. When you feel stressed, it’s common to grab a quick jolt of sugar or caffeine, but during stressful periods it is even more important to take care of your body by giving it good nutrition and plenty of water.Kids also need good nutrition to feel good.
3. Be real. The online world may be fun, but people generally post the good stuff they are doing so it may seem that “everyone” is more with it than you are, gets more done, and is generally just having a better life than you are.
4. Plan for fun. People tend to schedule their work, but you should let fun fit in wherever. By planning in some fun time, your kids will be less stressed. Raise their vibrations on a regular basis and recognize that this is an important part of being a healthy person.
5. Nighttime rituals. Everyone needs sleep, especially teenagers. As much as they will want to sleep until noon, school schedules don’t generally work with that pattern. Encourage your kids to get to sleep early enough so their bodies and minds have enough time to get the rest they need.
By establishing a nighttime routine, they will be able to relax and fall asleep more readily. Writing in a gratitude journal is one great part of a bedtime routine, preferably an old-fashioned one with pen and paper since the lights from computers, phones, and tablets can disrupt sleep patterns.
With healthy stress reducing habits and regularly checking in with their IGS, kids will be able to handle the important things that come their way. Not only that, they will be able to determine when they need a break and what tools work best for them to keep their stress at a healthy level.
© 2014. Sharon Ballantine. All Rights Reserved.