As an adult, childhood may appear to be a carefree time in life. However children still experience stress. In today’s society school and social life can create many pressures for a child and they can become overwhelmed from the pressures. As a parent it is up to us to protect our children from these stresses. We can assist them by helping them to develop healthy ways to cope with their stressors. A child will deal with stress in both healthy and unhealthy ways. Not all children will reach out to their parents for help to cope with their troubles. It is also not easy for a parent to know how to assist their child when they are feeling stressed. Children need the adult assistance when working through both healthy and unhealthy stresses especially with today’s added complications of living in today’s American society. I am going to share some suggestions for parents to help their child cope with their stresses. It is good to verbalize to your child when you notice something bothering them. If you are able to label the feeling you feel your child is experiencing be careful not to make it sound like you are accusing them or that you are putting them on the spot. Make sure it comes across to the child as a casual observation and that you want to hear about their concerns. Be sympathetic and show that you care and want to understand their feelings. Listen attentively and calmly to your child. Show them that you’re interested in hearing their troubles and that you are patient, open, and caring. Do not judge, blame, or lecture your child or tell them what you think they should have done instead. Your child’s concerns and feeling need to be heard before you assume anything. Attempt to get the whole story by asking questions such as “and then what occurred?” Make sure you take your time and let your child take their time as well. They do not need added pressures. Make brief comments on your child’s feelings so they know you understand their feelings and that you care. When a child feels understood and listened to they will then feel supported by you, which is very important during times of stress. When talking with young children they do not have the proper words for their feelings so if you see your child is frustrated or angry it is important for you to label their feelings to help the learn how to identify these emotions by title. By giving them the words it also gives them the ability to recognize their own emotions to better communicate and develop emotional cognizance. A child who can recognize their emotions are less likely to reach the exploding point where their strong emotions emerge through behaviors rather than utilizing their words. Once you pin point the specific problem that is causing your child’s stress discuss together what to do. Encourage your child to come up with a few ideas on their own, but do not pressure them into thinking of their own ideas. By allowing your child to have active participation it will help them to build their confidence. Support their ideas and add to them as needed. Sometimes just talking about the situation and listening to your child is all that they needed. Do not give the problem more attention than is needed. Change the subject by moving on to something much more positive and relaxing for your child. Limit your child’s stressors such as homework and too many after school activities. It may be necessary to allow your child to break up their homework time in to sections of work and play and you may need to limit their extra activities after school to allow them more time to concentrate on their homework. When your family is going through a family changing event make sure your child knows they are not to blame. Do not involve your child in any adult disputes and handle the conflicts when the children are not around. It is important that both parents work together t provide a consistent routine for your child/children. Let your child ask questions and remember to do what is to the best interest of your child. A child may not always feel like talking about their problems and some of the times that is OK. Make sure you let your child know when they feel like discussing it you will be available to them. Just by knowing you care and you are there for them can make your child feel better. If they do not feel like talking then you should initiate something you can do together that is fun like baking cookies, going for a bike ride, watching a movie together, shooting basketball hoops together or something else that your child enjoys doing with you because your presence really counts. Above all be patient, as a parent it hurts you to see your child unhappy or stressed. However you need to resist the urge to fix all of their problems and focus on helping them to become a good problem solver. When we know how to flow with life’s ups and downs and put our feelings into words, know when to calm down we are able to bounce back and try again throughout life. By teaching healthy coping strategies to your child you will prepare them to manage their stresses as they develop in their future. A child who learns to handle their stress will be a happier and healthier adult tomorrow! Symptoms your child is dealing with stress: • Fear of sleeping alone, nightmares, and/or sudden onset of bed wetting • Irritable or withdrawn, overwhelming feelings of sadness, overreacting to minor problems, and/or throwing tantrums. • Headaches and/or stomachaches • Teasing or bullying others.
June 24, 2014