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It is important to acknowledge when your children are not coping and to offer tools to support them. There are tools to help with children’s stress and anxiety.

Approaches to keep your children as stress free as possible are outlined below to support you.

Firstly be aware of and recognise these six signs of stress and anxiety in children:

  1. Tears for seemingly minor reasons.
  2. Nervous behaviours such as nail biting and hair twirling.
  3. Physical complaints, such as stomach aches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
  4. Regression to younger behaviours; bed wetting, eating with hands.
  5. Withdrawal from school friends or siblings.
  6. Any behaviour that your child doesn’t normally do could be a sign of anxiety.

My top eight suggested stress management tips for children are:

  1. Take the pressure and expectations off children if they are feeling uncomfortable. Helping children cope with stress involves knowing their personalities and limits. Listen to and acknowledge how they are feeling and give them time and space with it.
  2. Stick with the routine as much as possible.
  3. Ask your children what makes them feel better. Do they wind down with music, reading, spending time with you, or playing with their friends, brothers, or sisters? Encourage them to do what helps them calm down and relax.
  4. Make sure your children eat nutritious foods, drink lots of water, and get exercise. Reducing children’s physical stress looks similar to minimising your own anxiety.
  5. Have tokens of support for your child. For example something little that Dad or Mum gives the child to have while they are away that is filled with magical happy energy that passes to them when they hold it. It could be anything, a rock, a photo, a small toy. My youngest son slept with an old ID card under his pillow that my husband had given him, for about six months. He said it made him feel close to Daddy. One dad I spoke to set fun challenges for his boys to focus on and achieve while he was working away. He followed up on them during phone and Skype calls.
  6. Have strategies in place to cope with your own stress. The less stress you feel, the more relaxed your children will be.
  7. Find ways to be involved in your community. Volunteering and contributing relieves feelings of stress and isolation. It is something that the whole family can be involved in and you will meet some lovely people. Your children will feel a sense of belonging and purpose, and so will you.
  8. Lighten the mood with fun activities; comedy movies, park afternoons, and cosy chats with hot chocolate or ice cream treats, going out, staying in, and laughing.

I have found that one of the most effective ways to reduce stress in the home is to foster a team environment and share how you are feeling in a positive way and how you cope in age-appropriate language. This will encourage everyone to talk about his or her feelings more, no judgment, no direction, just sharing and off loading the emotional burden that can build up.

When children have the opportunity to discuss the realities of life as they see it, they are developing understandings about choices and consequences and can begin to develop habits, resilience and skills that will enable them to make informed decisions about their own resources in the future.

While adults don’t need to share information about all our decisions with children, when we limit what they are allowed to talk about we deny them the opportunity to understand some of the choices we have made that directly impact upon their daily lives.

Everyone is doing the best they can with the choices they have made and children need to know this applies to the adults in their lives as well. How could we provide more opportunities to discuss our life choices with children?

Listening to children, and responding age appropriately, is sometimes hard. It requires time and patience but the insights gained are usually worth the effort. Considering what they have to say means that we can also consider what else they need and have a better chance to reduce the stressors in their lives.

If you were to pick 3 de-stressing techniques from the information above that you could start using now to support your stress-free household, what would they be? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

  • My youngest had a lot of health issues when she was little. We saw several Doctors at several hospitals. Now that shes an adult she says that she was always worried about things and thats why she was always throwing up. As a child she never said anything or gave any signs that she was stressed. :(

    Reply

  • I think most important is to talk and listen with and to your children, take time and have patience.
    Think a loving, caring and always respectful approach is also very important, no matter what age.
    A good example as parents and a healthy amount of relaxation, fun and distraction seem to me essential as well.

    Reply

  • We really need to tackle the problem as soon as possible, thank you for the informative and important article.

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  • Round table conferences with my children seemed to make sure they didn’t have stress – they were able to talk on anything that worried them or that they thought might worry them. Talking and helping them through is the best way by far – be open and never lie to them.

    Reply

  • My two year old keeps asking everytime we are out “me go home”. It’s getting to the point where we don’t go out much because within 5 mins she wants to leave. Does anyone have suggestions on how I can help her?


    • Perhaps breaking outings down to small chunks “we are going to the supermarket to get dinner then we can go home”, or “we need to go to the post office and then the bank but then it will be home time”. If your child has a timeline they can feel more in control of what is happening and perhaps this will alleviate some of the angst at being out. My kids responded really well to a visual ‘tick list’ of what was planned that they could use as a time line, but be aware that if the plan deviates from what was said you could face a stress response in the form of a meltdown or tantrum… at 2 they have a narrow scope for unintended change…

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  • It’s hard to imagine kids having to go through anxiety and stress. I certainly think removing pressure is very important.

    Reply

  • Low sugar treats that also have no articial flavourings or sweeteners.
    Stick to essential parts of your routine but ask your children what they would like to do. Be prepared to give them some choices

    Reply

  • Great tips. I think when I’m stressed it definetly ripples though my family so I try to keep calm and BREATH before I let anxiety take over.

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  • I would choose first the second technique. Following a routine really helps a child to give structure to his life and feel less stressed.
    I like the first technique too. Time ago I read a lovely picture book about it. There was this child with a lot of worries and then one adult (maybe the grandmother, I am not sure) helped the child by taking away from him/her a bag full of all the worries the child was carrying. The importance of sharing worries. They don’t look that heavy anymore once you share them with someone that cares about you.
    As third technique I think I’d go with number 4. Food can have so much influence in our mood. Limiting sugar, giving more fruit and nuts I think will help the child to feel better. :-)

    Reply

  • What a great article, fantastic tips here. Wish it was around when my kids were younger. I now see they were stressed and I could have handled things better

    Reply

  • In our home we often talk about our day and things that are coming up. If there is anything we are stressed about, we remind each other that it will pass and somewhere down the track we will look back and wonder what we were worried about.

    Reply

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