Three-fourths of adult Americans regularly experience psychological or physical pain from stress. Children aren’t doing much better: one in five kids have ongoing “worrywart” issues. Worse, the majority of stressed-out kids have parents who assume things are fine.
Don’t take it for granted that your children won’t have stress issues. Use the following tips to help build their self-confidence and sense of security.
Watch Your Own Stress Levels
If you live stressfully, your kids will absorb that attitude. It’s time for some changes if you have any of the following habits:
- Moaning about how unfair life is and how nothing ever goes right for you.
- Watching endless hours of stressful news (or reading it online).
- Snapping at everyone not to bother you because you have a thousand impossible tasks to complete.
You may be surprised to hear that often, the best thing you can do for your household is to forget your responsibilities and enjoy yourself for a few hours each week: working at a hobby, relaxing with a cup of tea, taking a long hot bath. Trust that your kids will benefit more from a parent who takes regular “me time” to stay happy and healthy, than from a chronically irritable and distracted parent who feels obligated to be available 24/7/365.25.
Don’t Be Overprotective
One reason many parents feel they must be constantly available is that they feel responsible for protecting children from every bruise and disappointment. This not only multiplies parental stress, it robs children of opportunities to grow up and become self-reliant. Kids who never get the chance to learn from trial and error will instead “learn” that they’re incapable of ever solving problems on their own. Better a few unpleasant lessons than a lifelong victim mentality.
If a child is experiencing special stress—a friend turned enemy, a tough class at school—offer a listening ear and a comforting shoulder, but don’t promise to “fix everything.” Don’t just tell the child “what to do” either: encourage the child to personally work out a solution or coping strategy. Focus on affirming, “I know you’re strong enough to handle this.”
Don’t think, either, that you can protect children from knowing you’re under stress. If your marriage is struggling or your employer is talking about layoffs, and you try to hide it from the children—they’ll pick up on your tension, and imagine worse scenarios than the reality. Tell them what’s bothering you in age-appropriate language, while assuring them they aren’t to blame and you’ll all get through this together.
Talk About Positive Things
Whatever the challenges of the day, emphasize gratitude; and regularly affirm that “Our lives are full of good things, and more good things are going to happen.”
Note to Teachers
When a student is withdrawn, angry, or uncooperative, the likely cause is stress—and you won’t do any good by getting angry or impatient. Think empathy and gentle encouragement. Be ready and willing to listen to anyone’s struggles. If you suspect serious trouble, you may need to refer the problem to authorities. Often, though, all a stressed and discouraged child really needs is assurance that someone understands.
A PLACE FOR HEALTHY LEARNING
“Traditional” academics are stressful for many children whose individual talents and learning styles may not fit the traditional mold. If you feel your child would thrive better in a more individual-attentive, participation-based learning environment without competitive pressures, Shady Oak Primary School may be the right choice for your family. Contact us to learn more about our “6 Pillars” approach to maximizing every student’s potential.
Blessings to parents and children of all ages!