Friday, February 8, 2008

Kids and Stress

Have you every noticed your kids seem to get a little anxious when there's a change, like school starting back up? I really think my 4-year-old gets stressed out. I know I do when I have a busy day. How much of that rubs off on our kids? A survey by Parenting Magazine says most parents feel like they are stressed out more than their parents were. The survey looks at things like school shootings, terrorism and Global Warming.

Dr. Michele Borba gives these tips for de-stressing our kids:

  1. Tune in to your child’s worries. Start by observing your child a bit closer to see how he handles stress. Each child copes differently, but how does your kid deal with pressure? Does he have difficulty concentrating or is he excessively irritable? Does she react fearfully to sudden noises, revert to immature behavior patterns, act out or have tantrums or nightmares? If you can identify how your child generally handles stress, you’ll be able to tune into it before it mounts to the boiling point, and you'll be able to help him find ways to reduce it.

  2. Monitor the “fear factor.” Don’t assume that, because your kid is older, news events don't affect him. A Time/Nickelodeon study found that preadolescences said that those TV news bulletins that interrupt regular programming were especially disturbing. They also admitted being even more anxious if a parent wasn’t there to help explain the event to them. If your kids do watch the news, watch with them to answer their questions. And take that TV set out of your kid’s bedroom! You can’t monitor it in there (My son runs to tell me every time there is a bad guy on T.V. because he knows watching them makes him have nightmares! Jen)(46 percent of parents on this survey admitted that their kids do have a TV in their bedroom).

  3. Keep yourself strong. The Parents Magazine survey found that moms and dads were far more stressed today than their own parents were. Is there one thing you can change about your daily habits that might help you reduce that stress? Don’t expect to be able to help allay your kids’ stress levels until you've found a way to keep your own in check. Are you really watching what you eat (and reducing anxiety-increasers such as caffeine and sugar), exercising, getting enough rest, seeking the support of friends, or spending a quiet moment alone? Parenting Priority #1: Keep yourself strong so you can take care of your kids.
  4. Cut one activity. Just one! The survey found that the vast majority of parents didn’t feel they had enough time to be with their kids. So take a long, hard look at that schedule. Is there one thing you can cut each week that, in the long haul, won’t make that much difference? The book club, the violin lessons (your kid hates anyway), cooking the “gourmet dinner” every night. Your kids mirror your behavior and will be calmer if you are calmer.
  5. Pass on good news reports. (We often have "good news" reports after the weather forecast on HOI)Draw your child’s attention to stories of heroism and compassion – those wonderful simple gestures of love and hope that people do for one another (that are always on the back page of the paper). Find those stories in the newspaper and share them with your child. You can also encourage your kids to watch for little actions of kindness they saw others do and report them at the dinner table. Many families call those “Good News Reports.” It’s important to assure your children that there’s more to the world than threats and fear. Your actions can make a big difference in helping to send them that message.
  6. Do stress-reducing activities as a family. I know your time is tight. But maybe you could find a way to reduce stress with your kids. Anxiety is an inevitable part of life, but one of the most important things you can do as a parent is to help your child learn to cope with pressure. Walk to school with your kids. Join a health club with your teen. Do yoga with your daughter. Go biking riding with your preschoolers. Push your baby in a stroller as you walk.

Standford University is researching stress and how it relates to kids.

Kids Health looks at how stress impacts kids depending their age. My baby gets stressed when I leave the room. My four-year-old gets stressed when I leave him alone at preschool. A teenager gets stressed when he/she doesn't fit in. According to this article, it's the same stress, it just manifests itself differently. And this part was interesting:

"Your child's stress level may be intensified by more than just what's happening in his or her own life. Does your child hear you talking about troubles at work, worrying about a relative's illness, or fighting with your spouse about financial matters? Parents need to be careful how they discuss such issues when their children are near because children will pick up on their parents' anxieties and start to worry themselves."

Stressing out your kids is something you kind of know how to avoid, but daily life sort of gets in the way. Sometimes we are going to have issues with money and say things we shouldn't in front of this kids. I will take this article as a friendly reminder not to do that!

What stresses out your kids?

-NewsAnchorMom Jen


Jennifer said...

When my son was young he was a huge perfectionist. For example, spelling tests, at one point he hadn't missed a spelling word all year and would worry incessantly about missing a word. It was crazy, I found myself actually hoping he would miss a word so the pressure would be off. (I figured the momentary, "Oh, my gosh, I missed a word" would be less stress than the every week, "I can't miss a word!" stress.)

I think change is also a huge stressor. Again, my son, not my daughter, seems to have the most trouble with this. We have had to work hard to make transitions easier for him. For example, when he first had a school locker with a combination, we went and practiced it everyday for 2 weeks before school started so that he would feel confident about opening it between classes.
9/11 was really difficult to handle as a parent of young children. There was no way to avoid the coverage. It made me really, really sad for my kids, that they had to deal with such a devastating world event at such young ages; they were six and seven at the time.

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