Unfortunately, stress is not an “adults only” problem. Children can feel stressed, too, and they need for the adults in their lives to teach them proper coping mechanisms. But sometimes, we as adults also feel stuck and unsure of what to do.
Here are 6 tips for helping children cope with stress
1. Recognize the Signs
Depending on the age of your child, stress can exhibit various signs and symptoms. Toddlers may regress to baby-like behaviors, such as using a diaper, be fearful of loud noises, or even bite. Preschoolers may cry uncontrollably, have anxiety, and experience problems with eating or sleeping.
Some children react violently when frustrated or anxious, but usually there is a common gesture that precedes the outburst, such as waving the arms.
Kids of grade school age may have difficulty with friendships, become withdrawn, or be overly attached or distrustful. As kids move into the preteen and teen years, stress may present as feelings of loneliness, anger, low self-esteem, and extreme behaviors.
So if your child is showing signs of stress, what do you do?
2. Don't Add to the Stress
Your child does not need to hear about all of your problems. Unless it's something relevant to his or her life, too much information can be burdensome to kids. Your child should not be your confidante. Be sure you check your own behavior, and discuss your feelings with a trusted friend or relative instead.
On the other hand, it is important the children know that life can be difficult. We can talk to our children about how God ordains both the lovely and the difficult times in life for our good and his glory. It is important that they see us trusting God when life is hard and that by our example, they learn to do so as well.
3. Use Essential Oils to Calm
There are several essential oils that can be used to ease anxiety and help children calm down. Smelling or diffusing Lavender, or using diluted Peace and Calming (YL blend) on the feet are our favorite methods for calming in a stressful situation. Joy and Valor (YL blends) can also be diluted and used prior to an event that is known to provoke feelings of anxiety. If you'd like to learn more about essential oils, click here.
While you're talking out your life stresses with a spouse, friend or mentor, make sure you're making yourself available to listen to your child. Active listening is a skill, and it's important for helping kids cope with stress.
Asking your child outright whether or not he or she is stressed or if something is wrong may not get much of an answer (or you'll get the infamous “Nothing”). Listening also involves observation. Your child's behavior can tell you a great deal. Pay attention to their non-verbal communication and body language, as well as what words they use on a day-to-day basis. And when your child does choose to talk to you about his stress, try focusing more on listening and less on reacting. See also: How to Help Your Child Open Up
5. Words and Prayers
Helping younger kids communicate with words that identify their feelings may help the feelings seem less intimidating and overwhelming. Help young children by labeling their emotions and explaining what they are feeling. If they are too young to speak well, maybe you could use a sheet of facial expression drawings (happy faces, sad faces, angry faces, sleepy faces etc) and ask the child to point to the one that shows how they feel. Try using “what are you thinking?” or “what did you think about that?” or “how does that make you feel?” rather than “why?”.
It is also important to pray with your child during stressful times. Reminding them again that God is in control and has a perfect and good plan for the situation. Helping them to express trust in the Lord, and ask for peace and confidence in Him is just as important for them as for you.
6. Include Your Child in the Solutions
As you talk over stresses in your child's life, include him or her in discussions about finding solutions. Let them voice things they believe might help. This can actually provide a lot of insight into how your child is feeling. And they will feel validated when you consider their input for resolving the situation.
Hopefully, some of these tips will help you as you help your child cope with stress. Remember, stress can have a solution.