Many times parents can see that their child is dealing with stress or worry that a situation may cause a child to be stressed. Many parents will ask me what they can do to help their child cope with stress or if they can prevent a stressful situation before it occurs. These are valid concerns and questions for parents to ask. Given the state of the world with mass shootings occurring at schools on a regular basis and many children are now homeless in the United States, children are experiencing many stressful situations that never existed before. Since children’s brains are not fully developed, they process information differently and coping with stress can be difficult for children. Also parents are having less control to the stress their child is exposed to due to technology we now have instant coverage of events and 24 hour media coverage which makes it difficult for parents to help their children. I recently read an article by Lori Lite with some good tips for parents to help children cope with stress. I have included these tips and information below.
Children do not think, act, or manage stress like adults; the younger the child the smaller the stressors. Help children cope with stress by realizing you can empower your children. Arriving at school to find a rearranged classroom or a substitute teacher can be big stressors to kids.
Young children do not yet have the ability to identify or express their own feelings of stress. They struggle with their own emotions and they pick up on their parents tension. The American Psychology Association noted that 39% of children feel sad and worried when their parents are stressed. Often a stressed out child can be detected when a teacher or parent observes changes in a child’s behavior.
Frequent melt-downs, sleeping problems or nightmares, clingy behavior, refusal to go to school, acting younger than their age, bed-wetting, stomachaches and headaches are signals that your child may be experiencing too much stress. The main thing to look for is a change in behavior. Trust your instinct.
Tips to Help Stress:
1. Help children put words to their feelings. Ask them if they feel nervous, scared, or worried. Ask them what is making them feel that way.
2. Acknowledge your child’s feelings and encourage the use of positive statements. Often children do not understand the outcome of an action or change. Instead of realizing their favorite teacher will be back tomorrow..they might think she is gone forever. Create positive statements for the situation.
“I am safe. My substitute teacher is fun. My teacher will be back soon.”
3. Introduce stress management techniques to children. Parents and teachers can easily teach and use techniques like breathing, positive statements, and visualizing on a regular basis. Lesson Plans are available.
4. Establish a bedtime routine that helps kids relax. Soothing music or relaxing stories. Indigo Dreams: Kids Relaxation Music promotes sleep and relaxation.
5. Spend reassuring quality time with children. Parents and teachers can laugh and play together. Singing songs like This Is The Way We Laugh And Play and If You’re Happy And You Know It can be a liberating and fun stress reliever that you and your children can enjoy together.
I hope these tips are helpful. Parents it is important to remember all you can do is your best to try to help your child. However, as I stated above, with the advancement of technology and events such as mass school shootings happening on a regular basis, you cannot protect your child from every stressful event.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience and he specializes in treating children, teenagers and trauma victims. For more information about his work or private practice visit one of his websites www.rcs-ca.com or www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.