It’s been a stressful year and a half for our kiddos, hasn’t it? The pandemic has put a lot of pressure on all of us, especially our children. Think of how much stress you as an adult have experienced due to lack of social interaction, job stress, virtual learning, etc., and now consider how that has impacted your child. Pandemic or not, though, stress is a part of life. So teach your child from an early age how to care for their mental health and manage stress in productive, healthy ways. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Be On The Lookout For The Signs
You can’t help your child cope with stress if you don’t know it’s there. If you want to catch stress before it becomes a larger issue, learn to recognize the signs. The American Psychological Association says that some of the signs of stress include:
- Irritability and anger
- Changes in behavior
- Trouble sleeping
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Eating changes
- Getting sick more often
If you notice one or more of these signs in your child, take time to understand why they’re exhibiting stress and help them work through it.
You can’t always take your child’s stress away, but you can minimize the impact it has on them by making sure they aren’t exposed to things their young minds might have difficulty handling. For example, if you are experiencing marital problems or your family is going through big changes like a move, try to have serious or emotionally charged discussions with your spouse in private. Remember, your child is still… a child! They will mentally take on adults’ worries if they think that might help the situation get better. Unfortunately, their little hearts can’t handle that load and it emotionally drains them.
Talk About What Is Going On
Now, sometimes processing things as a family is beneficial. If your child knows something is wrong and is going through hardship with you (perhaps the death of a pet) it’s good to talk to your child and invite them to talk to you about what is causing them stress. They may need your help figuring out their emotions and verbalizing exactly how they’re feeling, so be patient and try not to assume you know how they feel.
Of course, you don’t have to bombard them with questions or pressure them to share. But processing things out loud with your kids can be incredibly helpful, not only for their own stress management but also for your own understanding of how they’re feeling.
Watch The News (And Other Stressful Content) After They Go To Bed
The news is depressing and scary at times. Homicides, riots, natural disasters–these and other disturbing images and stories are meant to catch our eye and keep us glued to our screens. While it’s good to stay up to date on what is happening around us, we have to be cautious about how much news we watch around our children. The stories are often too mature for their little eyes and ears.
Additionally, if your child is having nightmares, your child’s viewing habits could be to blame. TV shows, video games, and movies need to be age-appropriate. Remember, they have big imaginations and their little minds can’t quite understand yet that what they’re seeing on their screen is not reality. Be careful of them watching over your shoulder or being in the same room as you watch the news or your favorite show. They might be peacefully playing with their Legos and appear to be ignoring what’s happening on the screen, but their ears and brains are picking up on the words and sounds they’re hearing.
Other ways to help your child manage stress include exercising/going for a walk, spending some time outdoors, making time for quiet (sensory overload causes stress), and praying together. And remember, if your stress is rubbing off on your child, perhaps the best way to reduce their stress is to focus on managing your own. Talk to a therapist or a pastor, take care of your physical and mental health, and spend some time journaling or bringing your feelings to the Lord in prayer.
Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation. Selah