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7 Ways To Help Your Child Manage Stress

June 6, 2022

by mikkie mills, guest contributor

School, friendship dynamics, and growing pains can cause significant stress for children. Your child may not have the tools required to manage new stress in a healthy manner. Adults have had years of experience during which they may discern what methods are effective for them. You can be a bridge for your child to safely get over stressful waters. Consider several ways to assist your child through trying times. 

1. Look for Physical Signs

Keep an eye out for unexplained physical changes or expressions of discomfort. Stress can trigger symptoms like stomach aches and headaches. If your child is coming down with colds more often then it may be helpful to investigate if stress is placing strain on their immune system. Conditions like dysautonomia can be worsened by unmanaged stress and develop into chronic illnesses that last through adulthood. Addressing physical symptoms with your pediatrician or family medicine doctor could be a game-changer for your child’s future. 

2. Talk Openly

Foster an open and honest verbal environment where nothing is too big or small to be worked out together. Help your child solve problems, accept areas where they don’t have control, and counter negative self-talk. Making sure that you are at least one safe person for your child to rely upon when they need to vent or ask otherwise embarrassing questions is vital for managing stress. Be a person they can speak to without shame.

3. Start Journaling

Some kids find it more difficult to articulate their feelings or concerns in the moment than others. Journaling enables them to get thoughts off their chest and puzzle out causes of stress. You can give them a lined journal and help them create a habit of writing at night or you can provide supplies for art journaling. This may help your child to process their experiences in images and allow them to speak more confidently later.  

4. Introduce Mindfulness 

Mindfulness practices are beneficial for children and adults who experience stress. These methods essentially help to regulate the nervous system’s response to stress through breathing and meditation. You may offer an age-appropriate meditation app on your child’s electronic device to remind them of daily guided practices. Local community centers or after-school programs may offer mindfulness groups for children. Modeling the practices as their trusted adult could help your child and enable you to be a strong support. 

5. Explore the Outdoors

Fresh air and sunshine are underrated. Many children need unstructured playtime to self-regulate and decompress. Time in nature near home or while camping as a family can provide them with opportunities to freely explore the world without judgment or peer-group comparisons. 

6. Encourage Exercise

Physical exercise is important at every age and can assist the body in managing a stress fight-or-flight response. Children can get exercise on community sports teams, in dance or gymnastics classes, through active play like tag, or with family. Think about adding a daily or weekly family walk in your neighborhood so that everyone has time for gentle movement and conversation. Focus on feelings over outwards looks.

7. Prioritize Sleep

Sleep is essential and many children encounter barriers to quality rest. Commonly used phones, computers, tablets, and television screens emit light that disrupts human sleep patterns. Remaining mentally “on” and attuned to messages or social media notifications can add to a child’s stress. Help your child to create sleep hygiene boundaries around their rest schedule and keep screens away from their pillow. Try showing them that you need rest as an adult by practicing what you teach.

You can equip your child with stress management tools that they can rely upon through school and adulthood. 

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