Stress In Children
Stress can be debilitating. We are associate stress with high levels of health issues, including heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and cancer, to name a few. When our bodies become exposed to prolonged stress, we feel exhausted, unmotivated, and struggle to complete daily tasks.
After being exposed to long stress levels, our children cope with constantly canceling activities, quarantines, virtual learning, and observing their caregivers feeling burnt out. As a result, our children have forgotten how to perform in school, struggle to manage their new normal, and don’t know how to express their feelings.
Stress in Parents
As parents, we start feeling hopeless at times. Children now have separation anxiety more than ever; they struggle with learning, school avoidance, impulse control, behavior issues, sleep difficulties. Parents are left without a plan, stressed, and worried about their child’s future success, and haunted by the thought that this pandemic may never reset.
It does seem that COVID-19 is here to stay for now. However, as parents, it is important to take care of ourselves and navigate and set limitations with our own stress to be mentally and emotionally available for our children.
How to Decrease Stress Levels
One of the most significant ways children learn social-emotional skills is through their mirror neurons responsible for social learning. Children learn through observation, and this process starts at birth. They are constantly observing their surroundings, facial expressions, verbal cues, and language from what is around them. There is a reason our “kids say the darnest things.” They hear us do it. Or a peer. Someone around them.
It is now more important than ever to listen to our bodies and navigate our stress. It is essential, in this environment, that we are modeling resiliency, positive attitudes, and coping techniques. Our kids need to know what stress is, what it feels like, and how to handle it.
Talk to your children about feelings. Read books about feelings and stress to connect with them about their day. The more we start the conversation, the more you will get from your children.
So often, our children hear “No,” “Stop,” “Work harder,” “Not right now.” In a typical environment, there is enough balance that they do not personalize these negative thoughts. However, in a world where socialization with friends is now limited, we need to make sure we make time and space to make mistakes, coach them through, and limit their stress levels. Instead of “stop,” reflect back, “this is not OK, what can you do instead?” “I need you to sit down and read or go play, and you cannot — right now.” “what do you need to make a better choice?”
Engaging their problem-solving skills will help them with higher-level thinking and lower their stress levels. We need higher-level thinking for survival, for communication, and for making better decisions.
Know that it is OK if your child needs mental health support. Therapy works for a reason; taking the first step can be difficult, but if home feels overwhelming-giving your child support to talk through their feelings and play through their worries can be very powerful.
We know that hard things happen to make us stronger; we are all raising some strong kids.