Children are often exposed to stress and pressure throughout their lives. This can be from major life events such as a death or divorce or from minor daily stresses.
When a child feels stressed, they can become easily overwhelmed and frustrated. It is important to help them manage their feelings and find ways to deal with their frustrations.
Reassure them that it’s normal to feel stressed.
According to Positive Reset Mental Health, stress and pressure are normal parts of life for kids and teens, but prolonged anxiety can cause problems. It can lead to avoidance behaviors that interfere with school, family, and other daily activities.
Children and teens often feel stressed when they have to make changes or adapt to new situations, like moving schools or getting their first car. They may also worry about their friends or family.
Reassure them that they will be OK. Let them know that it is normal to feel worried or anxious and that you will be there for them.
Help them find ways to cope with their feelings and pressure. Encourage them to try healthy coping skills like relaxation, meditation, self-discipline, and exercise.
For older children, help them learn to recognize their body’s response to stress. For example, if they complain of stomachaches, you can teach them how to identify those symptoms as a response to stress.
You can also help them understand the difference between positive and negative stress. If they are feeling anxious about starting school, remind them that they will meet new friends and have lots of fun.
It is also important for kids to get plenty of sleep and eat well. Experts recommend that 6- to 12-year-olds need about 9 to 12 hours of sleep a night, and teens need 8 to 10 hours.
When children feel safe and understood, they are more likely to talk about their worries and fears. You can give them a safe place to talk by setting a regular time for talking and allowing them to tell you what they are feeling and thinking. You can also use active listening, which means asking open-ended questions and being patient as they discuss their feelings.
Talk to them.
Stress and pressure can cause many different things for kids, including difficulty grasping new information at school or struggling with family issues like illness or divorce. Even though it may be difficult to get your children to open up about their feelings, talking to them is a key step in helping them manage their stress.
Start conversations by recognizing your child’s efforts. Compliment them on things they do, such as drawing or being a great friend, or mirror back the qualities you know they want to develop.
Similarly, talk about your own experiences and the events that have happened in your life. This helps them think through a variety of ways to cope with their own challenges, and it shows them that you understand their struggles.
Keep your discussions brief and low-pressure, especially if you’re not always able to have one-on-one conversations, says Romanowski. Find times throughout the day when you can connect with your children, such as when you’re eating dinner together or walking them to school in the morning.
Ask questions rather than focusing on the answer, so they can take their time to process what they’re saying. Give them a safe space to express their emotions and thoughts so they don’t feel pressured or embarrassed by the experience.
Listen actively and show that you are interested in what they have to say by using gestures such as smiling or nodding. Make sure you sit down at eye level with them and use inquiry-based listening, which means you hear what they’re saying, not just think about it or rehearse your responses.
You can also help them solve problems by putting their ideas forward and brainstorming solutions. This way, they can see that you are trying to help them, and you can be a positive role model by working with them.
Give them a safe place to talk.
If you are worried that your child is feeling stressed, giving them a safe place to talk is a good idea. You can make this a corner in your classroom (where they can still see you) and provide them with comfy seats, stress balls, books, pictures of friends or family, and other items that help them calm down.
This is important because children need to know that they can open up about their emotions and that it’s not shameful or embarrassing. This also encourages them to learn the skills to deal with their feelings and build healthy relationships with themselves.
Having these conversations can be challenging, but they’re crucial for your child to feel safe and supported when struggling. They may not want to talk about their feelings right away, but over time they will come to understand that it’s a normal and healthy way to manage their stress and pressure.
One of the best ways to have these conversations is by using their favorite TV shows or stories to prompt the conversation. This will show your teen that you’re interested in what they have to say and will be a great way to start the discussion.
Another effective way to talk to your child about safety is to use your own experiences and tell them a story you can relate to. This will make it more relevant to them and makes the conversation feel more real.
It’s important to have multiple conversations about body safety and how to be safe on social media so that your child is learning these things as a natural part of growing up. It’s a good idea to have this conversation in person rather than just through a screen and be clear about the boundaries you expect from them so they don’t end up posting something they shouldn’t.
Help them find a way to deal with their feelings.
When children are feeling stressed, it can make it hard for them to focus and perform well in school or other activities. It can also cause them to act out in ways that aren’t appropriate.
For example, they may cry often during the day or at home and act out in social situations with their friends. They may also be more likely to get sick or have trouble with their eating habits.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to help your child manage stress and pressure in their life. Some of the most important things are reassuring them that it’s normal to feel stressed, talking to them about their feelings, and helping them find a way to deal with those emotions.
You can encourage them to identify their feelings and name them as they occur, such as “mad,” “sad,” or “anxious.” By labeling these feelings, your child will be more likely to understand that they’re part of a larger reaction and find ways to manage them before they become overwhelming or out of control.
It’s also important to let them know it’s okay to feel upset, but they shouldn’t act out or react negatively in response. Instead, they should think before responding, especially if it’s a new, stressful situation.
One of the best ways to do this is by modeling coping strategies yourself. Talk to your child about the different ways they can cope with their feelings and encourage them to practice them whenever they need to. This can be as simple as taking deep breaths or meditating. It can also include doing a physical activity like a puzzle or reading a book.
Encourage them to relax.
Taking time out for self-care is an important way to help kids relax. This might include playing a sport, spending time outdoors, or reading a book. It helps children feel positive emotions that offset stress, and it can be especially helpful if it’s a regular part of their schedule.
If your child is feeling stressed about something within their control, reassure them it’s normal, and you will support them through the situation. You may also suggest they take a break from school or activities that are causing them stress.
When they do face their fears, encourage them to be brave by offering praise and a reward for facing their anxiety. This can be a hug, a sticker, or something small that is tangible.
Another good way to help your child calm down is by encouraging them to practice relaxation techniques. These can include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation practice.
One of the most effective relaxation techniques is a simple counting exercise. Counting to four as you inhale and counting to five as you exhale can be very soothing to children who are feeling stressed.
Other stress-relief exercises that work for all ages are yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices. These can be fun ways to calm your child and can be done in a group setting with other kids.
Teaching them self-compassion is also a great way to help them cope with stress. It can reduce the effects of stress on your child and help them to regain confidence and strength in their everyday lives.
Stress can be difficult for children to understand, but it’s a natural part of life and teaches them valuable lessons about themselves and the world around them. When they can recognize their experiences as challenges and learn from them, they can feel more motivated to achieve their goals.