Helping Kids with Stress

As parents, it can be very difficult to watch our children struggle with stress. However, stress is an inevitable part of life and is unavoidable. The most important thing a parent can do when helping their child navigate stress is to equip them with the necessary tools and coping mechanisms to eventually handle it themselves. As much as we want to save them from it, this will ultimately stunt their growth and emotional maturity when it comes to handling stress. The best role we can play for our children is to be their pillar of strength and support.

Addressing Stress with Kids

When it comes to addressing stress with children, be sure to lead with honesty. The best way to help children manage stress is not to handle things for them (as much as we may want to swoop in and rescue them) but rather to prepare them the best that you can so they can independently handle stress. This is very empowering for them, even if they resist at first and want you to solve issues for them. Over time, the more experience they gain in stress management, the better equipped they are to handle stress healthily. 

How to Talk to Kids about Stress

The best thing to remember as you talk to your kids about stress is to talk to them in a way in which they can easily understand so they can eventually better conceptualize stress. You as their parent know your child best and can be intuitive to their needs in these conversations. As the adult role model in their lives, it’s up to you to start the conversation. Help your kids feel comfortable and at ease so they can share their true feelings. Be an active listener. Listening is just as important as talking. They may come to many understandings on their own, simply by verbalizing their internal feelings, and they will need a safe place to vent.

In these conversations, make sure to leave your own difficult emotions at the door. Some of the brutally honest feelings that your child voices to you may be hard for you to hear. Tailor your reaction to being calm, and you’re likely to get farther in the conversation with your child. Ask your child what they need from you to feel safer, more secure, and at peace. Remind your child of their strengths and give them the belief in themself and the encouragement that they need to cope with the stress of everyday life. Reassure them that they’re safe and dearly loved as they navigate stress.

Preventing Stress

There are many ways to prevent stress for your children. One of the most vital ways a parent can help their child prevent stress is by healthy parental modeling of stress coping mechanisms. Demonstrating calm-down techniques on a regular, daily basis for your child provides them with a tangible example of how to self-regulate in times of stress. You can do this in several ways, including exhibiting deep-breathing techniques and talking through mental stress management in front of your children. Establish positive self-talk and healthy positive thinking for yourself and model this for your child regularly. This will begin to build their own internal monologue. 

Make sure to give them ample opportunities to problem-solve independently. Providing consistent daily routines for your child will help them feel secure which hedges against developing stress. Consistency is key in childhood. Your child needs a safe, loving place to rely on as they navigate life, so be sure to cultivate the bond with your child regularly.

Coping Skills to Manage Stress

There are many productive and impactful ways in which one can cope with stress. Your child’s preferred stress coping strategies will largely depend on their age and unique interests. Some ideas include but are not limited to, participating in physical activity, such as going for a walk or having a dance break. Physical activity releases endorphins and distracts from stress. Do something creative or artistic, like coloring a picture, painting, or listening to music. Deep breathing techniques are vital in stress management, as well as using guided imagery. This is simply when you think about happy memories, a mental “happy place,” or look at pictures from a fun day to shift your mindset. 

Distraction is quite valuable when it comes to managing stress.  Have your child take a bath or shower, hug a stuffed animal, tell some jokes or find something that makes your child laugh, read a book, and play with bubbles or other exciting toys. Talking it out can be extremely valuable for your child as well. Encourage them to find something to be grateful for in the midst of their stress, and this can help shift their mindset.

Managing Stress Healthily 

Stress is always going to be there. It’s an inevitable aspect of life. The most important thing, however, is finding ways to deal with stress that are emotionally healthy. These will be unique to each individual, and you know your child best. Be there for them during this time, and be the loving, supportive foundation they need. Stick together, because you are a team in this. You can do it!

This information does not provide medical advice and is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for seeking professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please see full disclaimer.

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