Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.
I think Barbra Streisand sang it so beautifully when she belted out the words, “What’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget.”
Have you ever noticed how we, as adults, tend to minimize a child’s pain if the source of that pain is something we know he will “outgrow”? For instance, if he is struggling to adjust to a new school, we might be quick to reassure him that everything will be okay. We tell him, “You will find new friends, and you will be just fine.” We easily forget how difficult it is to be the new student.
As adults, we need to remember that children’s stress is real. We know they will move through this stage, but we should not make light of their feelings. Stress is as overwhelming to children as it is to adults because most children do not, as yet, have the necessary coping skills.
As always, begin with patience, love, and understanding to help your child through a stressful situation. Here are a few tips to help decrease a child’s anxiety:
1. Spend one-on-one time with your child. Find an activity or hobby that you both enjoy doing together such as reading books, baking cookies, or playing games.
2. Never underestimate the power of touch—back rubs, massages, hugs, and gentle touches are very soothing to a stressed child.
3. Be physically active together—it’s a great way for you both to release the stress of the day. Encourage vigorous activity and go outside whenever possible.
4. 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.
5. Children love stories. Make up stories where the main character deals with the stress that your child is facing. Laughter is a great stress reliever so make the stories humorous whenever possible.
6. Consider deep breathing exercises and even yoga classes for an extremely stressed child. You will find http://www.yoga4beginners.org/yoga-for-kids.htm to be a great website detailing the benefits of yoga.
7. 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. Your child needs to know that you have listened to her feelings more than she needs to know that the problem will be resolved.
Life brings stress. Be a role model. Let your child see you working through your stress and handling it in a healthy, positive way. 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.