Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.
Sometimes we tend to minimize a child’s anxiety if we know that he will outgrow the source of that anxiety. For instance, if he is struggling to adjust to a new school, we might be quick to reassure him that he will find new friends and that everything will be okay. We tend to forget how difficult it is to be the “new student.”
As adults, we need to remember that a child’s stress is real. Although we know for certain that she will adapt to her new environment, we should not make light of her feelings. Stress can be more overwhelming to a child than it is to an adult because most children do not, as yet, have the coping skills they need to deal with it by themselves. As always, begin with patience, love, and understanding. Encourage your child to talk with you and listen closely to what she is saying so that you understand the source of her stress.
Here are a few tips that will help your child through a stressful situation:
- Spend one-on-one time with him. Find an activity or hobby that you both enjoy doing together such as reading books, baking cookies, or playing games.
- Never underestimate the power of touch — back rubs, massages, hugs, and gentle touches are very soothing to a stressed child.
- Be physically active together and go outside whenever possible. Vigorous physical activity is a great way for both of you to release the stress of the day and also a good habit to adopt.
- Let your child know that it is okay to make mistakes. Share a minor mistake you have made and explain how you corrected it on a level that she can understand.
- Children love stories. Laughter is a great stress reliever so make up a fun story where the main character deals with the anxiety that your child is feeling.
- Consider deep breathing exercises and even yoga classes for an extremely stressed child. You will find http://www.yoga4beginners.org/yoga/kids.html to be a great website detailing the many benefits of yoga such as enhancing a child’s self-awareness and bolstering his self-esteem as he gains control over his body and mind.
- Validate your child’s feelings with phrases such as “I know you feel sad” and “It’s okay to feel scared.” Validation simply means that you have heard her. She needs to know that you have listened to her feelings more than she needs to know that the problem will be resolved.
- Every child handles stress differently, and there are times to ask for help. Do not hesitate to involve your family doctor if you believe that your child is exhibiting signs of extreme stress and anxiety.
Life brings stress. Be a good role model for your child, and let him see you working through your stress and handling it in a healthy, positive way.