IN MY WORDS: Helping Your Child Deal with Stress (Melissa Smith, School Counselor, Catholic Charities of Tennessee)
Adults are not the only people affected by stress. Children, even young ones, can feel the effects of stress in their lives. As parents and caregivers, we want our children to be happy and healthy. When your child is stressed, there are steps you can take to help them cope.
First, know that children may not be able to verbalize that they are feeling stressed. Instead, you may see an increase in irritability, temper tantrums, stomach aches or fatigue. Much like adults, stress affects children both physically and mentally.
What you can do:
• Sleep: Make sure your child is getting enough sleep each night. View the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendations by age here. You may be surprised by how much sleep they need.
• Nutrition: Children need a balanced diet to maintain the energy levels they need throughout the day.
• Know what they're watching: Children are not able to process world events the same way as adults. Be mindful of what they may see on the news, and monitor their screen time carefully. Children sometimes watch content that is too mature or scary, which can lead to an increase in anxiety and trouble sleeping.
• Make space for downtime each day: It is easy to fall into the habit of overscheduling your family, and it can take a toll on everyone. Spend time unwinding as a family. Try out some yoga, read a book together, go for a walk after dinner. You'll set a good example for your child AND reap the benefits for yourself.
• Teach them coping skills: Children need help learning to cope with stress. You can help them find what works best for them. Some ideas include journaling, exercise, creating a "calm down corner," making art, or listening to music.
• Set a good example: One of the primary ways children learn how to handle stress is by watching their caregivers. Everyone gets overwhelmed from time to time, but if you find that it's happening frequently, seek help from a friend or counselor to develop your own coping strategies.
Mindfulness for Children (NY Times article)
Cosmic Kids Yoga Videos (free!)
Positive Parenting Blog
Nutrition Resources on Healthy Children.org
Common Sense Media's Guide to Screen Time
To learn more about the counseling program at Catholic Charities, please call us at 615-352-3087.