Teaching Your Kids to Learn Stress Management During These Difficult Days
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT, RScP
Heart-Centered Career Transition and Job Search Coach | Stress Management Coach
Each one of us needs to learn how to manage stress intentionally, proactively, and effectively.
Stress gone unchecked can cause damage to your physical and emotional health.
Typically, it's things like work, money issues, or other similar parts of our lives that cause us a lot of stress.
And often, we think of stress as being something only adults have or need to deal with. Children also need to learn how to manage their stress, however.
And the sooner they learn, the better.
It will come as no shock to anyone reading this right now that everyone's stress is heightened.
Adults are worried about jobs disappearing and businesses suffering during this pandemic.
But let's not forget that we have kids who are also experiencing this situation.
They are stressed about missing school and their friends.
Seniors will be missing their graduation.
Kindergarteners may have trouble understanding why they can't play with their friends.
And for some families, except for vacations, this may be the first time everyone in the family has been in such close quarters for more than a couple of days.
To start, you need to explain things to your kids, depending on their age and capacity to understand. You don't need to overwhelm them with more information than they need.
You do need to encourage them to talk about what they are feeling, however. Make it okay for them to ask questions and answer them as honestly as you can.
Help them feel comfortable talking about their feelings.
Telling them not to worry won't make them stop worrying.
Telling them not to be afraid won't keep them from feeling scared.
But they will feel better if they can talk things out. (That goes for you, too.)
Nothing causes stress, quite like bottling up emotions.
Make sure your kids know that they can always come to you no matter what.
To get them used to this, be sure to talk to them when they're younger about how they're feeling. Don't make them uncomfortable when they talk about how they're feeling.
Allow them to express their frustration. That said, you must teach your kids how to let out their frustrations within reason.
Some undisciplined kids take out their frustrations through acting out and even violence. You can teach your kids how to let their frustration out properly. They need to learn how to talk through their feelings.
The most important thing you can do if you're trying to teach kids how to manage stress correctly is to teach by example. Kids look up to their parents a great deal and learn most of what they do through them.
If you can't manage your own stress properly, then chances are your kids won't be able to pick up on it very well.
So if you are struggling in this area right now, try to provide yourself with some stress management strategies.
You are your child's best teacher.
They are watching you right now. It's up to you to be their role model.
Take advantage of the many resources that are available to help you manage your own stress. By doing so, you model good behavior for your children.
Let's face it. None of us has lived through anything like this before. We feel stressed because we are uncertain about the future. And if there is anything we don't like as human beings, it's uncertainty!
So, it's okay for you to feel stressed.
What isn't okay, especially if you have kids in the house, is for you to act out due to your own stress. You are going to need to moderate your temper even when everyone in the house is getting on your last nerve.
You also need to find ways to keep your kids--and yourself--entertained the best way you can.
Plan fun activities. In some ways, you are being provided a rare gift. You now have time to spend with your family in a way that you may never have had before.
Everyone has been so busy with their own activities. School, work, soccer practice, piano lessons, dance lessons...all those things have kept you apart up until now.
Schools are closed. Work may be different if you still have work at all.
There are no soccer practices, piano lessons, or dance lessons to rush off to. It's just you and your family.
So, try to see the extra time you have been given together as a gift.
That doesn't mean, of course, that you won't miss seeing your friends at work and your kids are going to miss their friends at school.
But you can Facetime, Skype, or use Zoom to stay in touch virtually for the time being.
Your kids are still going to miss going to soccer practice and piano lessons and dance lessons, though. And they may need to talk about that.
The fact is that they are going to miss out on a lot of things this spring. And it may stress you all out.
But you can take steps to help mitigate the stress by being proactive.
Here are the seven specific things you can do to keep yourself less stressed during these stressful times:
1. Stay hydrated by drinking the recommended amount of water you need based on your body weight.
2. Eat nutritious meals to get the minerals and nutrients you need. Avoid food that is highly processed, high in sugar and salt, or contains corn syrup or fructose.
3. Get the sleep you need. Adults need 6 1/2 hours to 8 hours every night. Kids need more than that. Maintain a nighttime routine, so everyone in the house is getting the sleep they need. This one thing may keep you and your kids from getting so irritable and cranky.
4. Exercise. You may not be able to go to the gym, but you can still go for a walk. Just practice social distancing if you run into neighbors or friends along the way.
5. Don't forget to breathe. Pay attention to your breathing. If you find you are breathing shallowly, take a slow, deep inhale. Breathe out slowly, too. I just recently learned it is better to breathe in and out through your nose. So practice that.
6. Meditate or pray or do both as a daily practice. We need to hold the globe in our collective thoughts right now, and we need to be sending healing vibes around the world. Studies show that meditation can help you calm yourself and slow your heart rate. And there are also scientific experiments that point to prayer working. So, why not try both?
7. Finally, don't forget to have fun. Watch a funny movie. Play games with your family. Card games and board games have always helped families build stronger bonds.
These are trying times for all of us. All we can do right now is the best we can by following requests to stay home and keep yourself safe and well.
If you are well right now, thank your lucky stars. Many families are experiencing this virus in the most devastating ways. Pray for them.