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.
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
How can a consultant or coach help us adjust our mindset for more positive outcomes? it is the half-full or half-empty glass kind of metaphor…
Negativity can discourage us:
add to our stress,
put a strain on our relationship,
make us less productive, and
reduce our overall happiness.
A positive mindset, on the other hand, has many benefits across our lives regarding our health, relationships, and careers.
But, how do you become more positive? Is it that simple? Take a moment to listen to this brief audio reminder:
Five steps to developing a more positive mindset:
1. Keep a thought journal
If you have a negative internal dialogue continually keeping you down, you need to take action to banish these thoughts. If you have difficulty identifying this negativity a simple first action can be keeping a thought journal. Write down a random sample of ideas in your mind about yourself, events, people around you, and other events that happen throughout your day.
Then analyze these thoughts by reviewing the journal every night and establishing your thought patterns towards a positive mindset.
Do specific events trigger your negative thoughts? Take note of these and the next time you face a triggering situation, review carefully how you are approaching it.
2. Banish negative self-talk
After keeping track of your thoughts for a week or two, you will notice how consuming your negative thoughts can be. The next step is to banish these all together. Next time you write down negative thoughts in your journal, rephrase the wording so that it becomes a neutral statement.
“Bob forgot to take out the trash again so I had to do it and it ruined my evening.”
“Bob forgot to take out the trash. I did it. instead.”
This step is a small but effective way to train yourself. Don’t do this exercise only on paper or in your journal. Begin to rephrase your negative thoughts into neutral phrases in your mind. The practice will become automatic and significantly reduces your anxiety.
3. See the positive side
To jump straight from negative into positive thoughts is a challenge and the reason why the neutral-thought stage is crucial. By banishing negative self-talk, you are in an excellent position to see different, genuine positivity in situations.
Refer back to your thought journal and examine again the negative thoughts you have had. For each negative view, can you transform it into at least one positive, upbeat equivalent?
For example, if you dislike a person because they speak poorly to you, think about how you are developing more resilience. What is the positive from that contrary position?
It can be hard to find benefits within challenging circumstances, but there is always a way to see something good.
As the Dalai Lama once said, “See the positive side, the potential, and make an effort.” Sometime, a lot of effort might be required, but it’s worth it!
4. Keep a gratitude journal
A gratitude journal is an incredible way to take stock of all of the beautiful things around you. Every evening you write down the sound, positive aspects of your day. In general, what are you grateful for and why?
Perhaps you are grateful to your friends for their support, for the warm bed where you sleep well, or for the great weather you had that day. Write down all the positives.
When I started a gratitude journal, I found my mind arguing with me and contradicting my positive statements. What I learned from exploring this is when I don’t sleep well, the mind complains the next day without fail. Further research indicated that this is a typical pattern, but few people recognize the link between lack of sleep and mental angst or complaints.
5. Learn your sleep habits
This is a sure-fire way to re-ground you, make you gain perspective and make you realize how insignificant that particular trigger may be in the larger scheme of things. Context is essential, so keep shifting your mind towards the positive.
Practicing these four simple thoughts can help you transform how you perceive the world around you. Positive perception has the power to change your life, improving your attitudes and the ways that you respond to stress triggers.[Be patient and keep working at positivity, as it has so many benefits for your life, so make the most of it!
When you are working toward changing bad habits into more positive ones, set small goals and reward yourself for accomplishing them.
If you are trying to establish a new habit, one approach is to add the practice to a behavior that you already do each day. For example, write in your journal after you eat lunch each day. When you are online, send five messages of gratitude to others before you start your workday online.
You may be limiting yourself. By ignoring the limitations and pushing past fear, you can create newer, healthier habits that break you free of your comfort zone.
To make a change in the present, you have to move away from the past. Thoughts of the past might run through your mind when trying to sleep. Your personal growth could stall or hinder if you are continually re-living the past. Clearing the closet of skeletons can help you banish your negative thoughts and bad habits by allowing you to focus on who you are now and who you want to be in the future.
Do you know that states of mind are contagious? Any negative person in your life significantly affects you. When trying to change your habits, surround yourself with those who are of a positive mindset or successful in some area of life. Surrounding yourself with positivity can propel you to accomplishing your goals and banishing bad habits.
Willpower is a dominant force when trying to establish new habits. Use your powerful imagination to distract yourself when willpower is low. Distraction is a powerful technique when reshaping behavior.
Remember that you will fail occasionally, and failing teaches you another step to success.
Do you have a plan for how to deal with failures when they arise?
How does failure teach you resilience?
How do mistakes help you try again and to experience success?
Mistakes mean you are human and learning to get back up and try again. Missteps are essential components of a successful life.
When you are trying to rid yourself of a bad habit, get rid of triggers.
Whether you are changing your diet or trying to watch less TV, eliminating the triggers that encourage you to engage in these behaviors is essential. Don’t have unhealthy food in your house. Hide your remote control. Do whatever you need to eliminate the habit from your life.
Understanding your child is the most important topic that you could learn as a parent. This knowledge helps you to become active in guiding and nurturing your children as they grow and mature. Why? Your child has unique personality traits that remain consistent throughout life.
One way you can understand your child is by observing them as they sleep, eat, or play. Look for the consistent traits such as
shyness versus being outgoing
focused versus distracted
cheerful versus stressed
playful versus observant
fussy versus more accepting
Which activities do they like best?
How do they negotiate change?
Do they adapt easily to new situations?
Do they need time to explore new environments or activities?
These average characteristics of a child demonstrate particular interests, choices, and behaviors according to his or her inborn temperament. This is the key to understanding your child.
Create space and time in your busy day to talk, but also listen, to your kids as this is crucial to gaining information about how they think and what they understand. In the case of young children, they require less verbal language and more facial expression and body language to understand their thoughts and feelings. Asking them questions will allow them to share their feelings and identify emotional patterns.
For example, ask them what they built with their blocks today rather than asking them what they did in school. What game did they play with a friend? Learn how they used their imagination to create and enjoy. What was their favorite part of the day?
Another way of understanding your child is by looking at their environment to learn about certain behaviors that you have observed. Special people play crucial roles in your child’s life–family members, grandparents, child care providers, friends, and teachers. Of course, the home environment is the primary influence and can play a crucial role in your child’s behavior. For example, does your child show aggressiveness towards other kids at school? Find out all the triggers for their aggressive behavior.
Possibilities include their association with another child who is aggressive as well. The environment at home is another possible source for such conduct. Have there been conflicts and arguments at home lately? What about in the community? These are some angles to consider when trying to find the reason behind your child’s aggressive behavior.
Also, you can learn about your child by observing other children belonging to the similar age group. You can check out books, browse the Internet and take an online class or two. Watching your child grow up may bring back your memories of going through the same growth stages. However, through each stage, the speed of development is a personal thing.
By understanding your child’s development, you will be able to provide them with learning opportunities to support their development and prepare them for the next growth stage. At the same time, you as a parent would be able to set expectations and limits that are acceptable to your child.
Being a conscious Heartwise® parent is hard especially in this day and age when demands of work, financial commitments, and family tug on every parent. Quality time is hard to get when you are trying to juggle your time between corporate life and parenthood. Understanding your child’s temperament and traits are effective ways of becoming successful in the art of parenting.