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5 ways to help kids manage stress

We’re all very familiar with the stress of being an adult, but it’s important to remember that being a kid presents its own kinds of stress. It’s not only the stress brought on by major life events like starting school, losing a family member, moving house or coping with the separation or divorce of parents — it’s ongoing, low-level stress as well. Kids are learning to navigate life and are often faced with new emotions, challenges and experiences.

The symptoms

Before we get into how to help kids cope with stress, let’s talk about how you can tell that they’re stressed in the first place.

Depending on age and temperament, stress can show up in children in many different ways. Some telltale symptoms include:

● Behavioural changes like mood swings, teariness, tantrums, clinginess, or a short temper

● Bedwetting

● Bad dreams or difficulty sleeping

● Loss of appetite

● Difficulty concentrating

● Nervous habits like thumb sucking or nail-biting

● Withdrawing from people or activities

With that in mind, here are a few ways to help kids manage stress:

Talk about stress

Stress is a normal part of life. Discussing stress and how it makes us feel can help children learn how to verbalize their feelings and teach them that it’s okay to have negative emotions.

One way to encourage your children to talk about how they are feeling is to say something like “I can see that you’re stressed/upset, do you want to talk about it?” Listening to their response and making them feel understood can encourage a healthy discussion about stress and how to cope with it.

It may also be worth talking about the positive effects of stress, such as how it can help us to be resilient, or to work hard to achieve goals.

Teach them meditation and mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are techniques that are often recommended as stress management for adults, and they work just as well for kids. In fact, teaching children these skills early in life may mean that they are better equipped to manage their emotions as adults.

Luckily, there are lots of mindfulness and meditation programs available that are specifically created for children. One which is very popular is the Headspace app, which teaches the basics of mindfulness through practical breathing exercises, visualizations and guided meditations. You can even select a program based on your child’s age for a customized plan.

YouTube is also an excellent free resource for kids, with lots of guided meditation and yoga videos on offer. Try Cosmic Kids Yoga or New Horizon — Meditation & Sleep Stories.

Introduce a new hobby

Taking up a hobby like a new sport or an art or craft activity brings a host of benefits. For one, it can give kids a positive and healthy outlet for their feelings. Drawing or dance, for example, provide a way for kids to express themselves creatively.

Another benefit is that a hobby can provide a healthy way of distracting your child from unhealthy or unhelpful thoughts. As adults, we know all too well how it can feel to spiral into a cycle of negative thoughts, but a practical activity can disrupt this process and refocus our minds to the present.

Lastly, a hobby may help to increase confidence and develop friendships. Whether it’s learning a martial arts exercise or finishing a painting, achieving something or completing a task can give children a sense of confidence in their abilities. Often these kinds of hobbies are completed in a class or team environment, and meeting new kids can help children widen their friendship circle and feel more supported by the people around them.

Incorporate time to play

As adults, we’re used to juggling activities and priorities. Children haven’t had the life experience to learn this yet, and adding too many things to their schedule can result in feeling rushed or busy.

While it’s great to have planned activities, especially those which encourage learning and development, it’s also important to leave some time for unguided play. This gives your child some time to relax and be themselves without the pressure of sticking to a timeline or achieving a result.

Focus on sleep

Sleep is a huge factor in how well anyone can manage stress. This is especially important for children, who require even more sleep than adults. Unfortunately, stress can disrupt sleep, often by making it difficult to wind down at night.

There are a few ways that you can help your child overcome this. One way is to limit screen time in the hours before bed, as the blue light from devices and the stimulation can combine to disrupt sleep.

Another way to improve sleep is to introduce a sleep routine that includes storytime, which can help kids to relax and signal that it’s time to go to sleep. One way to do this is by reading to them yourself, but you can also use a sleep story on YouTube or via an app to teach your child to make the transition to falling asleep independently. Moshi Sleep Stories is an app developed to help children wind down, with enchanting stories, relaxing music and soothing sounds.

If you’re concerned about your child and their stress levels, speak to your GP or visit your local Capital Chemist pharmacist for some tips and guidance

You may also be interested in the following:

Kids and Colds
At home exercises to get you moving
Vitamins for children

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