There are numerous ways that parents can help their children with the stresses in their lives, reports Mark Thiessen School District 27 superintendent in a report he adapted from the Psychology Foundation of Canada.
Be aware of your own stress and how it may be affecting others. It is not always easy to keep your stress in check in front of children, but it is very important to be aware that children are learning how to cope with life’s challenges, successes and failures by watching you.
Children can be very perceptive, but life can still be confusing. Most children want to please the adults in their lives. It may be difficult for them to feel they can do that if their parents, caregivers, teachers or other adults around them are preoccupied, detached, seem sad or look like they are in a bad mood.
Learn how to manage your own stress.
Try different exercises: deep breathing, meditation, brisk walking, to help you keep your immediate symptoms of stress in check.
Talk to friends, colleagues and others you trust about the ways they manage their stress. When it comes to more significant causes of stress, consider breaking your problem down into manageable bites and working through it step by step, instead of getting overwhelmed or consumed by it.
You can teach your children lifelong skills by openly demonstrating the healthy techniques you use to relax after a hard day, keep a disagreement from boiling over, or cope with loss or failure.
It may take time for you to adopt healthier habits when it comes to dealing with the challenging people or events. But it is worth it when you consider that children need to be shown and taught how to effectively navigate the world.
Children who develop stress-management strategies without appropriate adult support tend to opt for counter-productive ways of dealing with stress, such as hiding, lashing out, running away, sleep and eating problems, and being unresponsive.
Connect regularly. Checking in with your child daily to learn about what is happening in their world, from their point of view, can help you better understand your child. It also sends them a clear message that you love and care about them.
Devote time for connecting and listening to your child. You may choose dinner time as “family time.” Or you may opt for family game night once a week.
Take time often to observe your child. Their body language, facial expressions, energy level, and so on, can tell you a lot.
Encourage resilience. Children who have a positive self-image and can identify, deal with and manage their stress are better prepared to roll with the punches of life. Help your child set realistic goals, cheer them on as they work to reach them, and be there to talk to when they succeed, fail, want to try again or want to strive for a new goal.
One of the ways to help your child build resilience is to promote self-regulation. This includes the ability to identify when you are starting to feel stressed and take steps to avoid being overwhelmed.
Extend your “family.”
Help to develop a circle of connection for your child of loving family, grandparents, friends and neighbours.
Additional strategies to reduce your child’s stress: ask them, talk to them; help them find ways to calm down; deep breathing, quiet/down time, listen to music, read; spend time with them and show them the love and affection they need with words, hugs and kisses; exercise is a great way to burn off stress; sleep is essential. Healthy food helps the body cope with stress more easily; develop routines at home, routines for before bed, morning; have fun together.
– Adapted from the Psychology Foundation of Canada