Just like adults, kids experience stress. Stress can have detrimental effects on health, from disrupting sleep and digestion to triggering depression and anxiety. Stressed out kids may get sick more easily and may struggle in school. As a parent, you can help guide your child through stressful times by teaching healthy stress management techniques.
Let your child know it’s okay
Start off by making it clear that it’s normal and okay to be stressed out. Tell your child that it doesn’t make her weak and that she shouldn’t be embarrassed. Whether her stress comes from school sports, an upcoming test or drama between friends, the way she feels is real and valid.
Address the causes
Sometimes stress can be relieved by changing a situation. If your child is struggling with a specific concern, such as a teacher or friend he doesn’t get along with, look into ways to solve the problem. Some kids don’t thrive in high pressure situations like team sports and shouldn’t be forced to participate if it’s causing too much stress.
Talk it out
Make yourself available as a sounding board for your child’s problems. If she isn’t interested in bringing up stress and anxiety, broach the subject gently. Ask about upcoming events, her friendships and her grades without judgment or expectations. Encourage her to talk to her friends and to other supportive members of the family.
Get your child moving
According to womenshealth.gov, physical activity can help relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Encourage your child to play outside, to try sports or to work on stretches. Many recreational centers offer forms of yoga and dance that are appropriate for children.
Make sure your child is sleeping
Stress can eat away at kids, especially at night. If this happens, it can actually cause the stress to get worse when kids end up exhausted during the day. Help your child to break the cycle of worrying in bed at night by teaching good bedtime habits. Allow your child to get up and read if he’s feeling stressed out and unable to sleep.
Teach coping skills
Kids can be taught to cope with stress. Talk to your child about deep breathing techniques and ways to shake off bad feelings, such as visualizing a calming place. Some kids respond well to talking about problems while others do well keeping a private journal. Kidshealth.org suggests that kids try tensing and relaxing muscles in the body to help focus and calm.