Understanding Children Stress Symptoms
Did you know that the first Wednesday in November is National Stress Awareness Day? Take a deep breath, relax, and follow along as we share some important tips and tricks on children stress symptoms, how to encourage your child to live a more stress-free life, and how to deal with the inevitable stress they will encounter.
Children Stress Symptoms: Help Your Child Face Their Fears
It’s natural to want to avoid situations that make us uncomfortable. However, did you know that avoiding situations that increase our anxiety doesn’t fix the problem? Instead, it can extend your anxious thoughts and feelings. When a child learns to face their fears, they will learn that once you confront what’s making you anxious, your anxiety will naturally decrease. This is because our bodies have an internal way of reducing anxiety. Feelings of anxiety decrease after between 20 to 45 minutes when continuously exposed to an anxiety-inducing situation.
Remind Your Child That It’s Okay Not to Be Perfect
Don’t we all want to be the best? Whether it’s in school, sports, or other activities, we can get carried away wanting the best for our kids. Even though it’s important to want our children to be great, we can forget that at the end of the day, kids need to be kids. We tend to see child stress symptoms when we prioritize grades over the enjoyment of learning. That doesn’t mean that working hard and succeeding isn’t important, but it’s just as important to embrace your child’s imperfections and mistakes.
Encourage Children to See the Positives
Many parents wonder, “Is my child stressed?” Kids who experience child stress symptoms can tend to fall into patterns of self-criticism, negativity, and frustration. They may worry about the future, see the glass half-empty, or be unable to focus on the good things in life instead of dwelling on the bad. Remember not to dismiss children’s stress. It’s important to acknowledge your child’s feelings as valid while still helping them find the positive aspects of the situation. Here’s an example: If your child seems overly sensitive, recognize their empathy. (The Power of Positivity has a great post on 10 Ways to Help Kids Think Positive!)
Enjoy Relaxing Activities Together
Children boost their creativity and development through play. Although we try to make their activities fun, it can be easy for kids to focus on success rather than enjoying what they’re doing. Schedule time together to take a walk, paint or draw, play a game, or just be silly.
Model Self-Care and Positivity
Children are like sponges. They will do what you do much faster than they will do what you say. The way our children learn to address anxiety and stress depends on how we respond to those situations. When you show your child the importance of self-care, facing your fears, and taking care of your mental health, they will learn to model their behavior after you.
When you recognize children’s effort, they are more likely to use that positive reinforcement to engage in those behaviors more often. When your child faces their fears or shares their feelings with you, reward them with a hug, verbal paise, or a small treat. Make sure to establish this motivation before your child is in the situation rather than during so that the reward is encouragement rather than bribery.
Stick To a Bedtime Routine
Sleep is crucial to supporting brain development in children and helping them rest and recover from their day. Creating a bedtime routine for your child will help them learn to relax as the day ends, making it easier for them to fall asleep and stay asleep. Establish a 30 to 45-minute bedtime routine for every night, and make sure to stick to a consistent bedtime, even on the weekends.
Open Communication: Is my child stressed?
The easiest way to know is to ask them. Nothing hurts your child’s self-expression more than feeling as though you don’t accept them. Don’t dismiss their feelings whenever your child tells you that they are worried, scared, sad, or angry. Instead, ask them to explain how they’re feeling, why they feel that way, and how you can help. Discussing your child’s stress symptoms and emotions helps them become confident in expressing themselves honestly and openly.
Teach Your Child to Problem Solve
Once you’ve discussed your child’s feelings and better understand their emotions, work on problem-solving skills for the future. Teaching your child to problem solve doesn’t mean telling them what to do. Instead, help your child come up with possible solutions. If they can’t come up with some on their own, give them some ideas and encourage them to pick the option they think will be best for them.
Child Stress Symptoms: Remain Calm
Just like we encourage parents to model self-care, it’s important to stay calm and collected when dealing with anxiety, so your child learns how to react. Children watch their parents to see how to respond to situations. For example, when a child falls, they will usually look at their parents to see how to react. If the parent is worried, the child is more likely to cry. If you’re anxious, your child will likely pick up on those emotions, and it will increase their anxiety as well. Learn how to slow down, take a deep breath, and practice remaining calm so you can encourage those behaviors in your child.
Practice Self-Soothing Behaviors
When you observe child stress symptoms, one of the best ways to help your child relax is to teach them a few basic relaxation techniques. Help your child learn how to take a few deep breaths, imagine themselves somewhere relaxing, or do some yoga poses to encourage relaxation and calm. Practice these exercises with your child so you can both benefit.
Never Give Up
Last but not least, remember never to give up. It can feel like you’re constantly battling with stress and anxiety. As your child ages, their responses to stressful situations change. By encouraging them to practice stress management techniques, self-care, and modeling proper responses, your children will grow up able to respond to stress and anxiety in a healthy way.
These tips were sourced from Psychology Today. If you need help finding a therapist, Psychology Today is here to help. Click here to find a professional in your area. Need hands-on help? Learn more about the Martin-Pitt Partnership for Children’s Healthy Social Behavior Specialists, Parents as Teachers, and our extensive professional development trainings.