Sometimes we forget that children are not capable of handling certain things in the same way that we are – including the ability to manage stress. What’s worse is that something we might easily overlook might be a severe stressor to our children. For example: showing up at school and finding the desks arranged differently than they have been all year or having a substitute teacher instead of their regular teacher can cause some children considerable stress.
If your child is having frequent breakdowns, having nightmares or trouble sleeping, or being suddenly clingy, your child might be experiencing a significant amount of stress. If you notice a change in your child’s behavior, trust your instincts that something is wrong and try these tips to help them cope with stress more easily:
- Let them know that it’s ok to talk about it. Some children have a difficult time expressing themselves or they may be afraid to say what they are feeling. Make it very clear to your child that if they are feeling out of sorts that it’s ok to talk about it. Help them share with you how they are feeling, whether they are scared, nervous, worried about something, or anything else.
- Encourage and help your child to identify something positive in what is otherwise a stressful situation in their lives. For example, instead of being worried over having a substitute teacher, remind them that they have a chance to meet a new teacher who they may find that they like even more than their regular teacher. Additionally, you might want to remind them that they are safe with the substitute and that their regular teacher will be back soon.
- Teach your child some simple stress-relieving techniques such as counting and breathing, taking time to do something they enjoy, or talking about their problem.
- Establish routines that will help your child to relax after a stressful day. This might include some cuddling and a story each bedtime or listening to some of their favorite music while they prepare for bed.
- Be sure to spend enough quality time with your children each day. This will help them to become more self-confident and assured. As with everything else, you are their role model and seeing how you deal with your own stress (provided it is a healthy response) will teach them the tools they need to manage their own.
Teaching your children how to handle stress at a young age will help them to be better at coping as they grow into adults.