Helping our Children Cope with Stress and Anxiety
Here’s what’s on mind right now - how do I help my daughter manage her stress levels during these difficult times? Stress and anxiety are running high everywhere right now and our household is no exception. Between the pandemic, remote learning, major social issues and an extremely divided election, the stress is real. I’m certain most are feeling the same, and how these times are impacting our kids is a concern we are also dealing with. How can we help our kids cope with their stress and anxiety? Here’s some suggestions I found helpful and thought I would share.
Stress in kids can show itself differently, but some of the common signs can be reverting back developmentally, such as not wanting as much independence and being more clingy than usual, having more mood swings like crying more or having more angry outbursts, as well as stomach aches and headaches. All of this is normal and I’m feeling a lot of these myself!
So how can we support our kids with all of this? Here's some ideas for helping them through it.
Look inward first.
Kids pick up on tension their parents are feeling. If you’re stressed, they will likely feel stressed. So managing our own stress levels is key, and also easier said than done. But being sure to prioritize yourself, whether that’s squeezing a workout in, meditating, or finding some time to connect with a friend, can help.
Give your time and listen.
Provide the time and space for your child to have the opportunity to share with you what is on their mind and how they are feeling. Helping them face and name their feelings rather than trying to push them away is important. Talking it out almost always helps and then you are able to normalize and validate their feelings. Telling them that everyone feels stressed at times and it’s ok to not be ok all the time, as well as validating their feelings and showing them you understand, can go a long way.
Provide consistency and reassurance.
Sticking to their routines as much as possible helps many kids feel secure and safe. Plus the reassurance that they are capable of handling big feelings and are brave and can face their fears will help them believe in their own strength to overcome difficult things. One of the only things certain about life is that there will be uncertainty and teaching them how to deal with that uncertainty is an important skill for them to learn.
Encourage them to find activities they enjoy.
Some of the things our kids need to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, are a healthy diet, enough sleep, and exercise. In addition to those basics, other activities that can help reduce their stress and anxiety are:
- Stay connected with their friends and family. This can include phone calls, text messages, playing games remotely, a physically distanced walk, or a bike ride.
- Hobbies. Is there something they enjoy doing or something they are interested in learning? Hobbies can be a great way to focus their mind and efforts on something they enjoy.
- Have some fun. Finding joy in the day-to-day is so important for them and us! Have a dance party, play a game, bake some cookies, take a bike ride together.
- A soothing space. A space that’s just their own, where they can go when they are feeling anxious or stressed can be a great way to help them cope. A blanket and pillow fort could be the perfect place.
- Mindfulness and deep breathing. If your child is willing (mine hasn’t always been), teaching mindfulness and practicing deep belly breathing helps our minds to quiet and focus on the here and now and how to be present.
Doing some of the things outlined and being honest and direct actually helps our kids be hopeful.
"Hope isn't about pretending that everything's OK; it's about recognizing that things can be very, very difficult and that in the midst of all of that, we can still find ways to grow as individuals and as a family and to strengthen our connection with each other and with the people we care about." - Joshua Morganstein, psychiatrist
Those are encouraging words that are helping me reframe my thoughts so I can better support my daughter. I hope you find it helpful as well. Sending all you amazing moms and dads love and light through these difficult times. Stay strong. We can do this!