We’re all very familiar with the stress of being an adult, but it’s important to remember that being a
kid presents its own kinds of stress. It’s not only the stress brought on by
major life events like starting school, losing a family member, moving house or
coping with the separation or divorce of parents — it’s ongoing, low-level
stress as well. Kids are learning to navigate life and are often faced with new
emotions, challenges and experiences.
Before we get into how to help kids
cope with stress, let’s talk about how you can tell that they’re stressed in
the first place.
Depending on age and temperament,
stress can show up in children in many different ways. Some telltale symptoms
changes like mood swings, teariness, tantrums, clinginess, or a short temper
or difficulty sleeping
habits like thumb sucking or nail-biting
from people or activities
With that in mind, here are a few
ways to help kids manage stress:
Talk about stress
Stress is a normal part of life.
Discussing stress and how it makes us feel can help children learn how to
verbalize their feelings and teach them that it’s okay to have negative
One way to encourage your children
to talk about how they are feeling is to say something like “I can see that
you’re stressed/upset, do you want to talk about it?” Listening to their
response and making them feel understood can encourage a healthy discussion
about stress and how to cope with it.
It may also be worth talking about
the positive effects of stress, such as how it can help us to be resilient, or
to work hard to achieve goals.
Teach them meditation and mindfulness
Meditation and mindfulness are
techniques that are often recommended as stress management for adults, and they
work just as well for kids. In fact, teaching children these skills early in
life may mean that they are better equipped to manage their emotions as adults.
Luckily, there are lots of
mindfulness and meditation programs available that are specifically created for
children. One which is very popular is the
Headspace app, which
teaches the basics of mindfulness through practical breathing exercises,
visualizations and guided meditations. You can even select a program based on
your child’s age for a customized plan.
YouTube is also an excellent free
resource for kids, with lots of guided meditation and yoga videos on offer. Try
Cosmic Kids Yoga or New Horizon — Meditation & Sleep Stories.
Introduce a new hobby
Taking up a hobby like a new sport
or an art or craft activity brings a host of benefits. For one, it can give
kids a positive and healthy outlet for their feelings. Drawing or dance, for
example, provide a way for kids to express themselves creatively.
Another benefit is that a hobby can
provide a healthy way of distracting your child from unhealthy or unhelpful
thoughts. As adults, we know all too well how it can feel to spiral into a
cycle of negative thoughts, but a practical activity can disrupt this process
and refocus our minds to the present.
Lastly, a hobby may help to
increase confidence and develop friendships. Whether it’s learning a martial
arts exercise or finishing a painting, achieving something or completing a task
can give children a sense of confidence in their abilities. Often these kinds
of hobbies are completed in a class or team environment, and meeting new kids
can help children widen their friendship circle and feel more supported by the
people around them.
Incorporate time to play
As adults, we’re used to juggling
activities and priorities. Children haven’t had the life experience to learn
this yet, and adding too many things to their schedule can result in feeling
rushed or busy.
While it’s great to have planned
activities, especially those which encourage learning and development, it’s
also important to leave some time for unguided play. This gives your child some
time to relax and be themselves without the pressure of sticking to a timeline
or achieving a result.
Focus on sleep
Sleep is a huge factor in how well anyone can manage stress. This is
especially important for children, who require even more sleep than adults.
Unfortunately, stress can disrupt sleep, often by making it difficult to wind
down at night.
There are a few ways that you can
help your child overcome this. One way is to limit screen time in the hours before bed, as the blue light from devices and the
stimulation can combine to disrupt sleep.
Another way to improve sleep is to
introduce a sleep routine that includes storytime, which can help kids to relax
and signal that it’s time to go to sleep. One way to do this is by reading to
them yourself, but you can also use a sleep story on YouTube or via an app to
teach your child to make the transition to falling asleep independently. Moshi Sleep Stories is an app developed to help children wind down, with enchanting
stories, relaxing music and soothing sounds.
If you’re concerned
about your child and their stress levels, speak to your GP or visit your local
Capital Chemist pharmacist for some tips and guidance