Six Tips to Help Children Cope with Stress
Stress can get the best of us, and children are no different; they’re sensitive to stress too. The fear of not knowing what comes next can be paralysing. Anxiety becomes an unwelcome companion, and frustration can turn into anger, manifesting itself in defiance, often throwing tantrums or causing a scene. From school to home, from art class to the playground, from one class period to the next – so many things can keep children overwhelmed. Plus, after studying from home for the last two years, the recent transition to the physical classroom has resulted in an increased amount of stress.
Even before the Covid-19 virus hit, high rates of psychosocial distress plagued children in many countries. According to a UNICEF and Gallup survey, 1 in 5 young adults felt depressed or were demotivated. While children can be resilient to occasional stress, constant stress can affect their physical, emotional, and behavioral health. Children exposed to long-term stress may become fearful, anxious, and insecure. They may also feel depressed and irritable. Stress in children can also lead to various physical symptoms, including headaches and stomach aches. Over time, chronic or severe stress can weaken the immune system and cause more severe problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes.
While stress may be inevitable, there are ways to help manage it. Throughout April, schools worldwide celebrate stress awareness month and encourage children and teens to de-stress. Here are some helpful tips on how to help your kids cope with stress:
👉 Talk It Out
Helping your children learn to cope with stress begins with communication. This can be as simple as a casual conversation while driving in the car or when you’re tucking your child into bed at night. Take the time to talk to them about their feelings and listen carefully to what they have to say. When they share things with you, try not to judge them – simply offer support and guidance. Make sure you let them know that it’s OK for them to express their feelings and ask questions about their day or any activities that seem out of the ordinary for them. Keep communication open and honest so that your child will feel comfortable confiding in you when they encounter stressful situations. It’s also essential for parents to talk about being stressed so that kids know it’s OK to talk about it too.
👉 Make Time For Fun
Take a break from your family’s hectic schedule and do something fun together. Play a game, take a walk, or simply enjoy each other’s company without distractions like cell phones or television. Avoid the temptation of over-scheduling activities outside the home. While it might seem like you’re doing something special by taking your child out to see a film or play, too many outings can leave children feeling rushed and overwhelmed when you could be spending quality time together instead.
👉 Limit Screen Time
Everyone likes to unwind after a hard day at work. But if your child is spending too much time online, it could be hurting their emotional well-being. Studies show that children and teens who spend more than two hours a day in front of a computer or TV may be at greater risk for anxiety and depression. Try to keep children from using electronic media during the hour before bedtime. This will help them fall asleep faster and sleep better throughout the night.
👉 Encourage Physical Activity
Exercise helps kids de-stress, reduce anxiety, and manage depression. It’s also good for developing their mind, social skills, and overall health. Practice taking deep breaths or imagining a quiet place together to help deal with everyday stressors like test anxiety or trouble sleeping. Breathing exercises can help slow down a rapidly beating heart and calm racing thoughts.
👉 Help Children Get Good sleep
Sleep deprivation can worsen mood disorders in children and teens, so it’s essential to set a regular bedtime routine that allows them to get at least 9 to 11 hours of sleep each night, depending on the child’s age.
👉 Model Healthy Coping Skills
Children watch what you do and take cues from how you handle stress. Show them how you use healthy coping skills such as talking about your feelings with people you trust, walking outdoors, or writing in a journal. Remind them that everyone feels stressed at times and that there are healthy ways of dealing with these feelings.
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