In my previous post, 7 Signs of Childhood Stress, we discussed some important ways that children express their distress over stress. If your child’s symptoms are interfering with friends, school or family, you may want to consider professional intervention.
In the meantime, apply the following strategies to relieve some of your family’s daily stress.
- Unclutter your schedule. Think of your schedule as a closet that needs periodic cleaning and discarding of items. Does your child really need to be enrolled in dance, soccer, and music lessons? What other commitments can be eliminated?
- Have regular routines to take care of their needs. Every day, most children should get eight hours of sleep, three nutritional meals and 30 minutes of exercise to diffuse stress. Routines of connection and affection relieve stress.
- Talk to your children. The average parent employed full-time converses with their child less than 20 minutes daily. If our kids don’t feel they can confide in us, they will turn elsewhere. “Talking it out” is an effective way to diffuse stress.
- Soothe your child with physical contact. Ensure that you are hugging and touching with your children, appropriate to their ages. Teens often enjoy shoulder and back rubs – especially by Mom. Girls often enjoy having their hair braided and combed, and manicures/pedicures exchanged. Dads can invite their children to sit next to them for TV and popcorn and give hugs and kisses when parting or meeting. Parental horseplay with kids can be positive. In addition, dogs and cats can provide relaxing sources of cuddling. Red flag: If children reject physical touch, this can indicate significant problems. Don’t ignore this sign.
- Make sure your child has at least one healthy friend. One best friend is often a better support system than a group of peers jostling for dominance.
- Accentuate the positive and learn to laugh. Focus on your child’s strengths and successes rather than habitually criticizing. It’s just as easy to be amused by your children as to be annoyed by them.
- Relax your expectations. Often people pressure their kids because of their own unresolved issues. Do you push your girl to be a basketball star because your were cut from the high school team? Do you frown at Bs on your son’s report card because you need him to be a doctor? Ditching these expectations can decrease stress on everyone.
- Bonus: Have “Together Time” with your child every day (either with Mom, Dad or another caring adult). Have your child make a list of 10 activities to do together. The parent approves all activities (sorry, can’t go to Disneyland every day!). Try to schedule Together Time about the same time every day and don’t make it a consequence for good or bad behavior. Just think of it as strengthening the relationship as the foundation to better behavior. During Together Time (about 20-30 minutes), put away all distractions (including siblings!) and do something your child chooses to do. Chat with your kid and try to connect with feelings. Resist the temptation to review failures or map out the tasks for tomorrow. Just enjoy the moment and see if you can share at least 2 belly laughs. Later, refer to those moments and remember them together with pleasure.
If your child continues to exhibit troubling behaviors after the implementation of the above strategies, please don’t ignore these signs of stress. Take the Resilified courses on parenting and relationships and get some new skills with your children. It can make all the difference!