I am not a psychologist, or trained in the ways of the Jedi, but I am a Mom, so I think that qualifies me to speak a little about kids and stress. My kiddo is an adult now, but I remember the days of tantrums, stubbornness, and his inability to communicate fully how he was feeling. Heck, even now, as adults, we sometimes don’t know how to verbalize what’s going on in our heads and hearts. Being human can be complicated and messy.
But fear not. There are actually some things we can do to help our children deal with stressful times. And maybe we can help ourselves along the way.
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1. We All Go Through It
Let your children know that you understand they are dealing with a stressful situation that could cause some anxiety. Better yet, share some of the things you may be going through, or have gone through. Obviously you don’t have to go into great detail, but letting your kids know that they aren’t alone makes them feel a little better. Then talk through the situation and see if you can come up with a solution together. It is very easy for us to tell our children what do to, but I’ve found it is more helpful to let them feel like they have a little control of their lives by coming up with their own solutions. This also helps them learn how to deal with their emotions in a positive manner.
2. Your Emotions Are Valid
Sometimes we forget our kiddos are just that, kids. We expect them to deal with situations as adults, and that’s not fair. I know, life isn’t fair, but we can at least level the playing field a little. We all want to feel like we are being heard and understood. And that means letting your children know that their feelings are valid. We may not understand fully where they are coming from, but we need to be supportive and show them the correct way to express those feelings.
My son once told me that he hated me. I knew he didn’t and told him as much. I said, “I know you are mad at me but I also know that you still love me.” After we talked about why he was angry, I told him that from now on he was allowed to tell me that he loves me but right now he’s mad at me. And I did the same to him. This gave him the ability to validate his feelings but to also deal with them in a way that wasn’t hurtful to anyone, himself included.
3. Stay Focused On The Positives
With all the negativity floating around, it may feel hard to focus on the good stuff. Heck, even as adults we fall into that trap. But if everyone works together, the whole family can focus on the positives. My Mom was great at that! No matter how bad something was, she would always ask us to find something good. Sometimes it was a struggle, but she was always there to keep us on track.
As parents we need to recognize that anxious and stressed children can get lost in negative thoughts and self-criticism. (1) One of the things we can do is point out all of the amazing qualities in our kids. You don’t have to go overboard, but letting them know that you recognize how amazing they are goes such a long way in helping eliminate that self doubt they may be carrying around.
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4. Lets Relax
As adults, we completely understand the value of having some down time. We may not be the greatest at scheduling it, but we value it when it comes along. Maybe it’s an adult beverage, a bubble bath, or even playing some video games. Our children need that also. So help them build that into their schedule. Doing something that we enjoy, just for ourselves, is a great way to reduce stress.
Scheduling some family time is also a great way to relax. Do something old school like playing a board game, going for a walk, taking a drive on a country road you haven’t been on can be relaxing, and may offer the opportunity for you kids to open up. While we’re talking about kids opening up. Why not ask if you can play a video game with them? Hop into their world for a little bit. You know you’re going to laugh a lot because face it, you probably suck!
5. Do As I Do
We’ve all heard the saying “Do as I say, not as I do.” Quite frankly, I find that preposterous. Whether they realize it or not, our children model their behavior after the adults in their lives. So if we are negative, talking down about other people, not taking care of ourselves, etc., guess what? So will they. Set a good example for them by scheduling some self care time, finding the positives in situations, and generally being a happy person. This doesn’t mean we won’t have bad days. But the best way to help our kids deal with stress or anxiety, is to show them how to do it in a positive and productive manner.
Stay healthy my friends!