How to Help Your Child with Stress
Besides taking a toll on a child’s health and wellbeing, stress can interfere with your children’s health, well-being, and brain function according to recent research from the University of Malaga. In a study of children ages nine to twelve, those who felt stressed performed significantly worse on tests involving memory, speed, and continuous attention, than kids who were not stressed. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD, medical director of the National Center for Children and Families says, “Younger children are being pushed to be little grown-ups” as a result of increased responsibility to “get the grades, do extracurricular activities, and get the test scores.”
Stress can also raise their risk for insomnia, skin disorders, headaches, upset stomach, and depression according to Paul Rosch, MD, president of the American Institute of Stress. Fortunately, there are a few ways to help your children keep their stress levels down:
- Deep Breathing
Studies have shown that meditation and deep breathing can lift moods and decrease blood pressure. Children who are old enough to count up to four can practice a controlled breathing exercise. When your children are feeling stressed, tell them stop whatever they are doing, sit down, and concentrate on breathing. Have them slowly count up to four as they breathe in and out for several minutes as the stress starts to fade away.
A recent study from the University of Helsinki found that children who were engaged in more physical activities on a regular basis also had lower levels of stress reactivity. In order to reduce your children’s stress, make sure they are engaged in regular physical activity from organized sports, playing with friends outside, or even walking for twenty minutes each day.
- Work in Small Steps
If your children are feeling anxious about a school project, encourage them to break the assignment into small steps with due dates on the completion of each specific mini-task. For example, if your children are worried about a book report and has two weeks to complete the assignment, advise them to take five days to read the book, four days to write the first draft, and the remaining time to revise.
- Talk About It
If you expect a stressful situation to arise or if your children become increasingly stressed about school, it’s important to take the time talk to your children about the situation. Not only can this help to relieve any stress that they may be feeling, but it can also encourage your children to become more forthcoming about situations where they are stressed in the future.
What are some additional activities you can do with your children to help reduce stress?