Helping Kids Manage Stress
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees that kids are coping with more stress these days.
Between distance learning, being stuck at home, major changes in routine and the uncertainty of the pandemic, many children have seen their world turned upside down.
While learning to live with some stress is a healthy part of growing up, it’s important that adults know how to recognize the signs of high stress in children and help kids learn how to manage and relieve what they are feeling.
Just like adults, each child processes stress differently. Be on the lookout for some of these common signs, which can indicate that a child’s high stress levels could be causing them problems.
- Behavioral changes – Some kids may withdraw or show a lack of emotion, while others may begin acting out or become more clingy than normal.
- Change in sleep patterns – This includes difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or an increase in nightmares.
- Upset stomach – If stomach pain is present without other signs of illness (such as vomiting, diarrhea, fever, chills, continuous pain or weight loss), it may be a manifestation of stress.
- Regression to old behaviors – This might be seen in a regression in potty training progress, bedwetting or reverting to sucking a thumb.
Adults can play a pivotal role in emotional development by helping kids identify and work through stressful feelings. Have an open conversation about what they are feeling and why it’s important to get those feelings out. Explain that their feelings are valid and normal and encourage them to express themselves by listening and comforting them. Finally, reinforce problem solving skills by letting kids take the lead on building a plan for how they can deal with their stressful feelings.
You may find it helpful to offer ideas of activities you can do together to help relieve stress.
- Exercise is one of the best stress relieving activities, whether it’s taking a hike outdoors, playing a sport or dancing in the living room.
- Schedule time for relaxing activities like painting or yoga.
- Practice meditation and deep breathing by slowly counting to four as you inhale and again as you exhale.
- Use sensory objects, like scarves or Play Doh, to invoke feelings of calm.
- Listen to music. It could be fun and upbeat or slow and calming.
- Create a bedtime routine that eliminates screen time and builds in quite family time to help kids unwind.
- Combat stress with play! Play helps distract from everyday stresses by distracting the mid and letting kids feel more in control.
While we can’t keep kids from feeling stressed all the time, as adults we play an important role in helping kids feel safe and secure during stressful times.
Sign up for the Power of Play email newsletter for tips, info and inspiration about making play a priority for your family.
10 West Seventh Street
St. Paul, MN 55102