Too often we fail to understand how children are impacted by stress. Children may be experiencing stress and not have the language skills to express what is happening to them. Areas of stressors may include family (conflict, separation, divorce, death), school (problems with peers, bullying, schoolwork or homework), Life transitions (new school, move), and environmental (natural disasters). Often, children also take on the worries of the grownups in their lives (work stress, financial worries, and/or health concerns). Children experience stress in the form of behavioral changes including acting out, defiance, changes in sleep and moods, or difficulty concentrating/focusing. Other symptoms may include physical changes such as stomachaches and/or headaches.
Stress can have a direct impact on a child’s health just like an adult. So it’s important to recognize it early and teach coping skills to minimize their stress response. Along with eating balanced meals, getting the proper amount of sleep, and daily exercise here’s a few more strategies to help your child calm themselves in times of stress.
1. Deep breathe. Refocus on calming breathes 1) slowly breathe in through your nose; 2)hold for three counts; and 3)exhale through your mouth while counting to six. Repeat 8x.
2. Shake out body. In a fun and silly manner shake out your hands, arms, and legs…be silly and have fun. Movement is the fastest ways to shift energy in the body.
3. Laughter. Is excellent medicine for reducing stress.
4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR).Tighten each muscle group as you breathe in…hold 10 seconds and then release your breath as you relax your muscles. Work up your body starting with your feet ending at your head.
5. Massage neck/shoulders. Gently massage neck/shoulders where most stress gets stored in the body.
6. Meditation. Check out the Meditation books for children by Maureen Garth for some great guided visualizations.
7. Brain Gym®. Brain Gym is a specific set of movements/exercises to help children in a variety of ways. http://www.braingym.org/
8. Stretch. Stretching each muscle group in the body is an excellent way of reducing tension.