Stress is a natural part of a child’s life. Children are very vulnerable to the stress in their lives. Children usually do not know that stress can make them sick, nervous, depressed, angry or withdrawn. Parents need to begin talking to their children at an early age and teach them how to develop awareness of the many ways stress can affect them.
Children may experience stress in many ways such as anger, changes in sleeping patterns, changes in eating, fears, withdrawal, depression, diarrhea, nausea, stomach aches, headaches, regressive behavior or any shifts in their behavior at home or at school. Teach your children the signs of stress.
Parents can help by teaching their children that they can develop effective tools to learn how to deal with the stress in their lives.
Parents can help their children by teaching them the skills of S.E.L.F. care.
- Awareness of stress. Teach your children the critical link between serenity (tools that calm them) and health and happiness. Teach your child to get silent and listen to their body and their thoughts.
- Breathe. Teaching your child to breathe correctly at a young age is a great gift for life. Most of us breathe very quickly and very shallowly. Our body must have oxygen to function optimally and our breath nourishes us and calms the body, mind, and soul. Take in a deep inhalation to the count of four, fill the lungs and the belly will be extended. Next, to the count of four, release slowly the air from the lungs and the belly will be flat. Do this with your child a few minutes and ask them to describe how they feel to you. Teach them that simply taking deep cleansing breaths is the quickest and best tool to stop stress immediately.
- Affirmation or prayer. Teach your child to memorize a short affirmation or blessing that they can repeat each time they get stressed out. “I am strong.” “I am enough” “I love my self.” They create one they love and they will trust it and use it often.
- Sleep. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep and rest. Sleep prepares your child to combat the stress in their life. Set a regular bedtime and make sure there is proper preparation time for your child to slow down and prepare for sleep (lights low, warm shower or bath, reading, calming music; any of these invite sleep).
- Reading. Keep several books in your children’s room for them to cuddle up with on their bed. Reading calms, teaches, and draws one into a quiet place within.
- Laughter. Laughter is an instant de-stressor. Teach your child to laugh when the world gets overwhelming. Their body de-stresses, they get tons of oxygen in the body, exercise lung and body muscles and stop the stress response in its tracks. It also teaches your child not to take the world so seriously.
- Activities. Teach your child that when they exercise, endorphins, healing, and calming hormones, are released into their bodies. Check with your child after they have exercised and ask them if they feel better. Hobbies and activities that draw your child into a group will create health and de-stress.
- Regular exercise. The body immediately de-stresses when you exercise. Schedule regular family walks after supper, put up a bad mitten net and a basketball hoop.
- Technology. Have a schedule of how much time each child is allowed to engage in technology each day and try to match the amount of sedentary engagement with the same amount of exercise time.
- Neighborhood exercise. Get a group of kids in the neighborhood to have weekly baseball, kick the can, bad mitten or basketball games. The family that hosts the weekly event provides the snacks or meal for the group.
- Love your SELF. Build up your child’s self-esteem. Encourage your child and listen to them. The greatest gift you can give you child is their confidence and self-love. Provide an atmosphere of openness where communication flourishes in your home.
- Family time. Make sure there is a routine in your family where your child has predictable family events daily. This makes your child feel secure and is a de-stressor.
- Meal time. Meal time is holy time. Miracles can happen over a meal. Teach your child that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Try to eat at least two meals a day together, sitting down at your table. Research shows the children of families that eat together have less problems in life.
- Isolation kills and community kills. Please teach your child the essential nature of community. We were meant to share and grow in our world together. Living with others teaches us we are all part of the human family and we are to live with reverent respect for each other.
- Teach nutrition at home. Food is medicine and a great tool for stress reduction and for mental and physical strength. We have great science on how food affects the body. This is powerful knowledge for your child.
- The power of feast. We were meant to eat together, sitting down and sharing. Eating food is a privilege and an ancient ritual of reverence that has been lost in our culture. I believe part of the reason for obesity in our nation is because we eat on the run and have lost respect for the ritual of the meal. Always practice a ritual of gratitude before you take the food into your mouth.
- Food not diet. Please expunge the word diet from your family. You child hears the word diet and it creates negative images for most of us. Food is good, holy and a gift for us. Our choices in food can make us sick or make us healthy.
- Families in the kitchen. Please take the time to cook with your children. This is a perfect opportunity for your children to plan meals, learn about nutrition and make great food choices. A simple rule is the healthiest food is the brightest colored. Create colorful attractive meals with bright colored place mats, napkins.