5 Techniques to Help Your Child De-Stress
by Noah Smith
Like adults, children also struggle with stress, such as too many activities, family conflict, or problems with friends. Stress is normal, but it’s important to teach children how to manage their stress and learn to relax. According to family psychotherapist Lynn Lyons, “If you don’t teach [your kids] how to manage stress, they will self-medicate with food, drugs and alcohol,” as they get older. Teaching your children how to effectively manage their stress will help them now and in the future as they face other obstacles and situations.
In addition to gauging their stress, it’s also important to monitor your child’s anxiety levels. While it’s normal for children to suffer from anxiety, there are many children who have anxiety disorders that go unnoticed until they are older. According to the Child Mind Institute, “80 percent of kids with a diagnosable anxiety disorder” are not getting treatment. By addressing stress and anxiety early, you can give them a leg up on managing their mental health as grow up.
1. Relaxing Activities
It is important for children to have time to relax and enjoy being a kid, and this can be hard if all the activities they participate in are centered around success rather than fun. Schedule relaxing activities for your child that are purely for the purpose of fun, such as playing with a friend, visiting the park, having a tea party, finger painting, or playing with toys. Set aside time daily or a few days a week, and encourage your child to have fun, let loose, and be silly.
2. Mindfulness / Quiet Time
Children need to play and have fun, but sometimes they need to take a breather and implement quieter techniques, which can include reading, drawing, painting or even yoga. Make sure the electronics are put away and that wherever they are spending time is a designated quiet zone. While it might be a tough sell for little people, breathing techniques work well too, and can be helpful for your child when you aren’t nearby, like at school or sports practice. Have your child practice breathing in through their nose, and as they breathe out, say a positive statement. You can come up with a positive statement together such as, ‘I can do this’ or ‘Relax.’
3. Physical Activities
Helping your child to learn to relax involves physical techniques too. Exercise is a great way to help your child relax, release energy, and promote a healthy lifestyle too. Incorporate daily exercise by taking a walk with your child after dinner, or playing a game of freeze tag after school. Use this time to reinforce the notion that it is okay to be imperfect, and that although it is good to succeed in sports, school, and other performance situations, no one is perfect.
4. Accepting Flaws
Encourage your child to embrace their mistakes and flaws, focus on the positives, and set up opportunities to help them improve. For example, if your child is struggling to grasp addition and subtraction, and the frustration is carrying over into homework, complete extra practice problems with them or set up tutoring sessions. Reinforce that stress doesn’t solve the problem.
Exercise isn’t the only way to get physical. Laughter, whether a small giggle or a belly laugh, provides several short-term benefits. When you laugh, your intake of oxygen is increased, resulting in the release of feel-good endorphins to your brain. Laughter also increases your heart rate, blood pressure, and circulation, which stimulates muscle relaxation and can reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress. Encourage your child to laugh by telling jokes, watching a funny cartoon, taking turns making silly faces, or watching a silly movie or cartoon together.
As you teach your child techniques to relax, remember to stay calm, as children look to their parents to see how to react in certain situations. Implement some of the techniques you teach your child into your own life to promote a calm, relaxing environment for both you and your child.
Noah writes for WellnessVoyager and enjoys offering his expertise to readers.