My child has just turned 7 and he is already feeling stressed?
Yes, it is possible, even babies as young as 3 months of age can feel stress too! What’s more children who are entering primary school for the first time, being in an entirely new environment, and learning new things every day.
Stress: a normal response
Stress exists on a spectrum. With the right amount, stress can give a positive boost and push them towards their goal, channelling their focus and building their resilience. However, if the stress experienced is too intense and for a prolonged period, it can become harmful especially when they are not provided with adequate support and lack the coping skills required.
Tips for Parents
- Model Healthy Coping
Parents are the best role model for their children, who learn best through imitation. Praise your child when they demonstrate healthy coping skills to reinforce healthy, adaptive behaviours like taking a walk or doing breathing exercises. If you are feeling stressed, you can model the coping strategies to demonstrate to your children the various appropriate ways of handling stress. For instance, you can vocalise your feelings and actions, instead of bottling and dismissing them.
You can also try these steps to be in a better space to manage your children’s emotions:
- Pause before responding
- Recognise that sometimes your child may not know how to express themselves
- Acknowledge the emotions that you are currently feeling
- Be mindful of the words that you use and the tone that you take
- Respectful Parenting
It is not passive or permissive parenting, instead, it focuses on the collaboration between you and your children rather than asserting authority, and respecting one another over enforcing punishments. Most importantly, we should strive to treat children as equals and support their autonomy as much as possible. This can be done by providing opportunities for them take part in simple decision making processes, such as choosing what to wear and deciding on their likes or dislikes. The more they feel that they have control over the situation, the better they respond to stressful situations. Whenever they are feeling stressed, be there for them by listening and understanding them.
Remember to avoid rushing into problem-solving, instead give them time to regulate and problem solve on their own or guide them through it. You can guide them through this problem-solving process:
- Define the problem
- Identify solutions
- List the pros and cons of each solution
- Choose a solution
- Reflect on how it went
Also, keep your child informed of any anticipated life changes such as a change in jobs or moving house. This provides them sufficient time and space to regulate and adjust to changes. Furthermore, it enables them to feel respected as they are informed timely as well.
- Active Listening
You can support and be there for your children through active listening by taking note of the following:
- Being present (verbal and non-verbal cues)
- Reflecting and summarising the content
- Reflecting emotions
- Validating and normalising appropriately
- Self-disclosure of similar experiences if any (take note not to dominate the conversation)
Tips for Children
Allocate time for self-directed play without end goals or pressure. This allows children to think creatively, and develop cognitively, physically, socially and emotionally. Free play also helps them to explore the world around them, making sense of things and building up their self-confidence.
This not only promotes better sleep quality but also builds their confidence and self-esteem. With these in place, it would lower their stress when dealing with challenges or facing stressful life events.
Children aged 6 to 13 years old are encouraged to have 9 to 11 hours of sleep daily. With insufficient sleep, children tend to feel easily irritated, forgetful and experience low motivation, all of which work hand in hand in contributing to increased stress levels.
Life can be stressful for both adults and children, and there will be moments where it gets too much for us to handle, but remember it’s is okay! Dealing with stress is definitely no easy feat, but with the tips above for both parties, stress can be handled appropriately, promoting health living for all. Should you or your child be struggling to cope with stress, do consider getting in touch with the child therapists at Annabelle Kids for support.
For more information on stress management and for parenting tips, click here!