Traditionally, many school-aged children love school and look forward to start of a new school year. But for other children, it’s also a time of great stress. In fact, stress—those overwhelming feelings of doubt about ourselves or our ability to handle things—is as common in children as adults.
The greatest challenge to parents today is teaching children to manage stress effectively. Children may react to excess stress with behavior that seems immature, inappropriate, or even disturbing. One child exhibits anxiety and tears the night before going back to school. Another child speaks of new teacher and asks her parents questions while trying to imagine the teacher's personality. Another child enjoys shopping for school clothes and looks forward to seeing new friends.
Stress can be terrifying to children who lack the emotional maturity or experience to understand and deal with it. The challenge for parents, teachers, and other caretakers include how to recognize signs of stress in children of different ages, how to know when stress threatens to overwhelm a child, and what to do about it.
In Nurture Your Child’s Gift, I offer excellent suggestions to help parents cope with their children’s stress. A stressed-out condition can result from a specific cause or from life in general. Here are some examples:
- At 17, Jen was a high school senior expecting to graduate with honors in the Spring. Just before Christmas, however, Jen’s father lost his job and the family had to move into the basement of a cousin’s house. Jen soon developed a severe allergy, then asthma. The illness cost her so much time from school that she required home-schooling to make up the difference.
- Mark was only two when his parents divorced. Confused, Mark wandered the house, calling plaintively for his father, but weekends with Dad made him cry. Most weekends, Mark developed upset stomachs that were so bad he’d miss preschool on Mondays.
Toddlers need to feel safe and comfortable. Stress for preschool children can arise from a new face at home or at day care, the disappearance of a familiar face, visiting lots of new places at once, or abrupt changes in the family’s structure, relationships or daily routine.
During the grade-school years, children become concerned with pleasing people like teachers, parents, guardians and coaches. School life—even a change in assigned seating or having to take a test—brings higher levels of stress every year. And when it comes to peers, even the threat of diminished acceptance is terrifying. Sleep-overs, birthday parties, sporting events and music competitions can trigger stressful reactions.
Through middle school and beyond, the pressures kids feel from parents, teachers, peers, society at large, and from within increases. Children have to learn adapt to these pressures. Because they have grown in their intelligence, curiosity and knowledge of community, demands for their attention, time, energy and effort can often feel like a tug of war. As in the cases of Mark and Jen, it is not unusual for life-altering events to express themselves in illness. At the University of Missouri, for instance, researcher Mark Flinn found that a child’s risk of upper-respiratory infection increases by 200 percent for the seven days following a high-stress event. And parents like Miranda’s might confuse what they believe are normal behavior with an expression of anxiety. Children often display their tensions in small acts that have aggressive undertones.
How You Can Help
- There are many ways parents can help their children deal with stress and stressful situations.
- Don’t try to fix everything for the child, and avoid offering advice. Sometimes just listening so that your child feels truly heard may be enough to relieve the stress.
- As you listen, ask questions that encourage your child to think a situation through. “What’s the next step?” or “How would you handle that?” are good questions. Ask a lot of “what-if” questions, too.
- Help children listen to themselves. Nurture Your Child’s Gift suggests quiet-time techniques for children to listen to nature sounds like rain or waves upon the beach, to their own heartbeat, or to recordings of whales, dolphins or birds.
- Encourage children to spend time listening to their thoughts. When they feel free to speak their own thoughts aloud about a situation, things suddenly become clear.
- Nurture Your Child’s Gift details a diaphragmatic breathing exercise for kids and parents. Shallow breathing is associated with the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. Deeper, effective breathing produces feelings of relaxation and calm.
- Use soothing and rhythmic music, even simple drumming, to help your child relieve muscle tension. It works!
- Don’t overlook exercise for releasing stress and tension. It works for your child just as it does for you. Have children walk the dog, get on the treadmill or stretch through easy yoga movements for children. Any movement they enjoy will help ease stress away.
- Parents can do much to alleviate stress in their children’s lives. Effectively dealing with your own stress is the first step. Showing your kids how to release their stress comes next.
Copyright © Caron B. Goode.
Emotionally healthy children do better in school, find more success as adults, and lead happier lives. They can be happy and fulfilled as they grow up.
Follow these strategies to increase your children’s emotional wellbeing:
1. Be open about your feelings. The world isn’t always positive, and you may have struggled. It helps your children understand your feelings if they see the reality of the world.
- Kids copy their parents, so they’ll mimic your emotions.
- As an emotionally healthy adult, you’ll show your kids that it’s normal to have both positive and negative feelings. If you’re open about them, they’ll be able to learn from you.
- You may be tempted to protect your children from your real emotions. However, you’ll miss a teaching opportunity.
2. Avoid judging feelings. Adults sometimes criticize others and their feelings. Your kids are always watching, so they learn to judge others too.
- When you judge and criticize the emotions of others, you show your kids that it’s normal to make fun of or mock other people.
- They can suffer emotional damage because they learn to criticize others or become scared to show their own feelings.
- It’s also important to avoid labeling feelings as good or bad. Sometimes you may be happy, and sometimes you may be sad, but both are normal. Help your children to accept and not to be ashamed of how they feel.
3. Avoid telling your kids how to feel. When you try to control a child’s emotions, the situation often gets worse and leads both of you down a dangerous path.
- You can’t control every aspect of your child’s life. If you try to tell children how to feel, they can become scared to show their true emotions. They learn that they can’t be honest about their feelings, so they stifle or hide them.
- When you tell your kids they have to be happy, you prevent them from figuring out why they don’t feel this way.
- Parents often feel that their kids are an extension of their personalities and expect them to act and feel the same way. However, each child is a unique individual. You can’t expect them to feel the same way as you.
4. Resolve your emotional wounds. You’ll find it difficult to teach your kids how to deal with their feelings when you’re struggling with your own. Kids naturally copy their parents, so they may pick up on your traumas.
- Take care to prevent the emotional wounds from your past or present from carrying over to your children.
5. Ask questions. Kids benefit from opportunities to discuss their emotions. Ask questions and find out how they feel, rather than assuming what they’re feeling.
- When you ask about their feelings, your kids will learn to articulate them. They’ll learn to express their thoughts and emotions.
Emotionally healthy children grow up to be successful and happy adults. They’ll also be able to use these skills when they get older and face challenges. The ability to be emotionally available and knowledgeable is a powerful tool. Your kids will enjoy great advantages from learning about their feelings.
Parents, Coaches, and Consultants can teach you to consciously choose your attitude each day. Would that help you manage stressors and feel better?
If you're like most people, you may tend to let circumstances choose and shape your attitude. Have you forgotten your personal power to shift out of the stressful, painful, or hegative circumstances.
Instead, choose your mood and attitude for the day. Heck, choose a positive mindset for the whole week and see what spontanous changes appear.
We're in a good mood as long as we get up on time, the kids cooperate, get to school on time,and the car starts without a problem. Then there are traffic jams, heavy work load, and systems to juggle throughout the day. Yep, this system can work fine as long as everything runs smoothly in our lives, which is does not.
But that's not always the case, is it? Situations don't always adhere to our expectations. Accidents happen. Delays occur. Spouses and bosses can be difficult to please. Vehicles break down. Kids may resist our efforts to keep the schedule running smoothly.
What happens to our attitude then? If we don't make the effort to consciously choose a positive attitude, we run the risk of developing a negative one at random.
How would our lives change if we consciously chose a positive attitude each day? For starters, we'd feel much happier about our lives. We'd feel more motivated about pursuing our dreams because we'd believe in the possibilities for making them a reality. We'd be able to enjoy the time spent with our friends and families more, because we'd want to share our joy with others. We'd feel strong and empowered in our ability to do anything we set our minds to. We'd be able to overcome challenges with ease because we'd have a strong belief in our own skills and abilities. We'd be able to love deeply and completely without fear of rejection or betrayal. We would pause to enjoy the smaller, more precious moments in life, without feeling pressured to do more, be more, or prove our worthiness.
Wow, it sounds awesome, doesn't it? Is it really possible to feel that way all the time? Yes, but probably not in the way you're imagining it.
Choosing a positive attitude is a process.
We don't just choose it once and expect everything to be perfect from that moment on. We will still experience setbacks, delays, accidents, frustrations, arguments, fatigue, and fear. The secret is how we choose to react to these experiences. Do we want to let them ruin our day, or do we choose to pick ourselves up and look hopefully to the future again? We do have the power to choose.
You may be asking what is the point of a positive attitude. If we'll still experience negative circumstances, why bother with choosing a positive attitude? Ah, that's the true beauty of the creative process. What we choose to focus on the most, we create in our lives.
By choosing a positive attitude each day, we are actually attracting more positive experiences, and reducing the likelihood of negative experiences. You may have noticed that each experience often determines the quality of the next one, causing a chain reaction in our lives. If one little thing goes wrong, it can throw off our plans for the rest of the day. In this context, it's easy to see how a positive attitude would be powerful. Rather than allowing one little thing to ruin our day, we would be able to shrug it off and continue on without a hitch.
Over time, this resiliency begins to strengthen and empower us, which will show through in our demeanor. We begin attracting people and experiences that more closely match our attitude, and our lives eventually transform into more positive, fulfilling expressions of joy.
All of it starts with attitude. This is a process, simply focus on developing a stronger awareness of your attitude moment to moment in your daily experiences, and begin choosing a more positive one more often. It takes time to realize the full benefits of this type of mindset, but it is time well-spent.
Before you know it, you'll be one of those people you used to admire for their tenacity and strength, and your life will transform in amazing ways.
NEW: Why does ACPI now offer Certified Professional Consultant Training after a dozen years of providing only Professional Coach Certifications?
The answer is to specify and encourage skills for the specific temperament types and blends of people dedicated to serving and helping others. The roles that each temperament type might look very different.
For example, what each temperament type might offer is not so black and white, as much as, it depends on the preferences of the blended temperaments and motivation. For example,
- Thinkers have advice to give and problem-solving skills to offer in an organized fashion.
- Supporters often share emotional support and offer hands-on practical advice.
- Creative Influencers remind us of the motivation to create and the allowance to unfold and manifest those innovations.
The coaching model for self-growth maximizes a person’s performance by unlocking one’s potential through a series of questions, choices, and determining how results rate.
Rather than teaching, coaching is akin to guiding, checking in with questions and reviewing progress toward goals or outcomes on a set schedule. The coach has graduated from a course or training that signifies expertise in the coaching model.
Consulting, on the other hand, involves giving advice. Also, the one giving advice is an astute expert in a particular field. A Professional Parenting Consultant, for example, demonstrates knowledge and solutions for advising in a specific area: for example; sleep, tantrums, school performance, adolescents, or babies.
Getting babies to sleep,
Managing a toddler’s tantrums
Helping a five-year-old learn to focus and complete a task.
Helping a school-age child learn discipline through study skills, play skills, or focusing skills.
A Certified Professional Parenting Coach might ask more questions about the situation:
What is the bedtime routine?
What instructions, if any, does the parent give the child?
How strictly is the child monitored, depending on the child’s age?
What schedule has the parent set for the child?
What resistance or behavior does the child exhibit?
What role is more comfortable for you?
The bottom line about training in coaching or consulting is best determined by idetifying your temperament and motivation
Consultants and coaches supporting people through life changes can use these tips.
The largest and most necessary step to change is acceptance. Life events always change, and expecting and accepting that premise helps us cope more readily. My friend Louisa received a diagnosis of cancer. Through the support of her family and friends, she coped well during the treatment sessions. All of us, who supported her healing journey, were grateful that she was not embarrassed to ask for help. She gladly allowed our small acts of kindness to ease her path. Louisa got over feeling guilty when asking for help, and I got over reminding her that I was there to support her.
2. Learn to Shift Out of Your Comfort Zone
Does it seem that changes occur as soon as you are comfortable or set in a routine? Most likely, you don't expect a major change if your guard is down.
Download this resource now:
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
3. Talk About Your Feelings Towards Change
If you tend to let things build up inside, choose now to stop that habit. You may be a person who doesn't like to share personal feelings. Or you might be embarrassed to share them. If the changes are at work, for instance, consider talking to your manager about the impact of those changes. Present your concerns in a professional manner and stick to purposeful breathing which helps you feeling angry or overwhelmed.
4. Try to Turn the Change in Your Favor
The phrase turn lemons into lemonade has widely been overused. However, it’s hard to deny the meaning of it and the impact of that meaning. If you are dealing with change, in one form or another, see what angles you can use to make it work to your benefit.
5. Keep Changes You Can Control to a Minimum
If you try to enact too many changes at once, it may overwhelm the people who are affected by them. People need time to absorb those changes and incorporate them into their lives. Sometimes, the changes you put into place may be out of your control. However, if you do have control over them, introducing them slowly over time helps those who affected to adjust and accept more easily.
6. Join Support Groups
If you have been affected by changes and needed to talk to another person, then you know that we need each others' support. This is so true when death or a long-term illness occurs. Are the types of changes you experience similar to others' experiences. Would a support group help in adjusting?
7. Trust Your Instincts
You may be forced into situations or decisions that go against what you believe.. If you find yourself in such a situation, it’s best to go with your gut or trust your instincts. If the change doesn’t feel right and you have no power to counter it, try to remove yourself from the situation. I have counseled others in tough situations, and solutions varied from changing jobs to taking time from work and seeking another person to help you clarify your vision and feelings. If you need help, seek it out.
8. Change Can Lead to Unforeseen Opportunities
The whole point of being able to deal with change effectively is acceptance. When you start to focus on change being something that is good, opportunities have a way of finding you. These opportunities may not have presented themselves had the changes not occurred.