The truth is this: We’re living in a world often driven by personal stress and anxiety.
Just think of how you feel after a long day at work dealing with frustrated customers or bossy managers, and then coming home to feed your children and spouse, do a little housecleaning, and prepare for the next day of work.
Now, just imagine being a child and dealing with similar stresses: Difficult classmates and teachers, trying to make friends, and achieving good grades.
It can be scary but, as Kelly Clarkson insightfully says, “God will never give you anything you can’t handle, so don’t stress.” And this goes for your child, too.
An important part of your child’s growing-up is going to be learning how to manage those everyday stresses and anxieties, and there are many ways you can help them do so.
No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself
Sit Back and Listen to Your Child
Perhaps a good starting point for helping your child manage stress and anxiety would be to just sit back and listen to what they say about their day at school.
Once they have told you about their day, you might try to dig a little deeper by asking questions like:
- How did you feel while you were at school today?
- What made you feel that way?
- How did you handle that situation?
- Why do you think you handled that situation in that manner?
- Do you think you could have handled it better?
Based on your child’s responses—they consistently feel uncomfortable or stressed while at school, they’re lashing out at teachers and friends, they’re calm and collected—you should be able to get a good idea of where they’re at when it comes to dealing with stress and anxiety, which will give you a good idea of where to start when further teaching them about stress and anxiety.
It will probably be difficult for your child to manage stress and anxiety if they are not even aware of what stress and anxiety actually are. So, why not be real with them and just teach them about the realities of stress and anxiety?
There are a number of ways you could do this. You could purchase some books to read together or for your child to read on their own; you could point them in the direction of a few movies, documentaries, or TV series if your child is more of a visual learner; or you could even share some examples and stories of stress and anxiety from your own life if you feel comfortable enough.
In fact, this last option of sharing experiences from your own life may be the most beneficial of all teaching methods simply because it will simultaneously comfort and teach your child. Your child might just feel that they, too, can take on the stress of the day if mom and dad can!
Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important.
Do not Talk About Stress and Anxiety Using Negative Language
This is critical when teaching your child about the realities of stress and anxiety: Try to avoid negative language as much as you possibly can.
The point of teaching your child about stress and anxiety is not necessarily to scare them but prepare them as best as you can.
In order to avoid any negative association, you might try putting a positive spin on the difficulties your child is encountering by pointing out the opportunities and new experiences that tend to come with stress and anxiety. Let your child know that the difficulties they face will lead to personal growth and realizations.
This will likely give your child a more positive outlook on their stress and anxiety. As stress expert and author Hans Selye says, “adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.”
Encourage Stress-Relieving Activities
Of course, you do not only have to teach your child to recognize and manage the stress and anxiety of everyday life, but also how to relieve and minimize their stress and anxiety in any way that they feel necessary.
Stress relief may look different for every child.
Some may find that sitting on the couch and watching a show on Netflix is enough of a stress relief for them, while others may find that playing a game of flag football with their friends or going out for a short walk is the best way to relieve their stress.
Whatever your child feels is necessary for relieving their stress, help them achieve it. Do this within reason, of course. For instance, if your child tells you that doubling their allowance might relieve their stress, it might be best for them to pick something else!
- Tips for Teaching Children About Stress
- Anxiety and Depression in Children
- Anxiety | Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
- What to know about childhood anxiety