Deal When Things Get Difficult

Often, we think of stress as a grown-up problem, but in reality, kids today are navigating a world in which many of them experience stress on a daily basis. From scary global and national events to navigating relationships and schoolwork, kids need all the support they can get to successfully manage stress. At this point in our collective history, kids are dealing with a lot of changes and disruptions to their normal routines. They also have the opportunity to learn how to manage their stress in a healthy way, which will help prepare them to deal with whatever life brings over the next few months and throughout their lives. Check out the tips and ideas below to help your kids manage stress in a healthy way.

1. Show them how you manage your stress

Kids learn so much of what they know from the grown-ups in their lives. This means that, as your kid’s special person, you have a tremendous amount of power over how they learn to manage stress. While you don’t need to be a perfect role model 100% of the time, how you respond to your stress will play a significant role in how your kid responds to theirs. When you’re feeling stressed, take the opportunity to talk out loud in an age-appropriate manner about what you’re feeling and how you’ll manage it. When you say, “I’m feeling stressed about how much work I have to do, so I’m going to make a checklist, take a deep breath and reach out for support,” your kid learns that there are many right ways to manage stress.

2. Keep a routine

With schools and workplaces around the globe disrupted, many families are finding it challenging to stick to their normal routines. Sticking to a basic routine is one way parents can help their kids manage the stress of unpredictable or scary world events. When kids know what to expect and understand that their daily life will remain somewhat consistent from day to day, they feel safe and more relaxed than when their lives are unpredictable. You don’t need an hour-by-hour schedule, but keeping wake-up and bedtime routines consistent and letting the day flow in a similar manner will help your child feel more at peace during turbulent times.

3. Help them identify their feelings

Navigating the world can be overwhelming for kids and feel even more overwhelming when they’re not well-versed in naming their feelings. When your child is experiencing a big emotion (whether comfortable or uncomfortable!), help them put a name to what they’re feeling so that they can better articulate their experiences.

4. Brainstorm ideas for managing stress

Kids don’t intuitively know how to manage stress any more than they would intuitively know how to tie their shoes – managing stress is a learned skill. When your child is feeling calm, work together to brainstorm some stress management strategies they can use next time they begin to feel overwhelmed. Remind your child that what works for one person might not work for someone else, and encourage them to try out as many stress management strategies as they can so that they have a whole toolbox of go-to strategies that they know work!

5. Make bedtime peaceful

While kids can worry any time of the day, there’s something about nighttime that tends to magnify stress. Help your child manage the bedtime scaries by making bedtime as calm and peaceful as you can. Start transitioning to calmer activities in the hour before bed and follow a warm, loving routine during tuck-in time. What feels right and works will be different for every family, but consider reading a few pages (or a chapter) of a favorite book, discussing the highlights of the day or sharing just how much you love them before clicking off the lights.

Stress can be tough to manage for adults, but kids need special tools and support to help them learn to manage stress in a healthy way. As their grown-up, you have the power to support them, guide them and teach them the stress management strategies they’ll use now and as they grow!

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