Week 5: Helping Your Kids Deal with Summer Stress
Gain a new approach on managing the stress kids experience during summer, planning easy fun activities, managing blended families, and keeping summer relaxed and family centered.
According to some studies I’ve read, kids of all ages, even as young as preschool age, are able to feel stress and identify when they’re feeling overwhelmed. Research has also shown that just as stress can take a toll on adults in a variety of ways, it can harm children as well. For example, a 2012 research study showed that kids who were under extreme stress didn’t do as well on memory tests as other kids.
There are a lot of things that can cause children to feel stressed, such as marital arguments, family separation or divorce, moving to a new neighborhood/city/school, a new baby in the family, illness, problems with friends, or a death in the family. For older kids and teens, stress can be even worse, resulting from peer pressure, grades, gossip, school and homework.
Regardless of age, children show signs of stress in different ways than adults, although there are some similarities. Some symptoms of mental stress in children might include excessive and unusual crying, irritability, moodiness, changes in sleeping or eating habits, aggressiveness, withdrawal from others, and a lack of interest in activities which they normally enjoy. In serious cases, children may even engage in some sort of self harming behavior.
Stress can also have an impact on a child’s physical health, not only causing new health issues, but possibly making existing conditions worse, such as asthma, hay fever, migraines, and intestinal illnesses.
It’s often hard to think that a child could be really stressed. After all, they don’t have to deal with all the adult problems in life, and can sit around thinking about toys, butterflies and going to the mall, but they can suffer stress from normal life situations. Summer can bring on even more stress resulting from changes in routine, lack of schedules, too much time with siblings, not seeing their friends or teachers, being bored, etc.
And if one or both parents are under a lot of stress, a child can often perceive this. So as important as it is to manage our own stress, for our sake and the sake of our children, it’s just as important to make sure we are aware of our children’s stress levels as well.
If you have noticed changes in your child this summer, or feel that their behavior seems a little out of the norm, it’s possible they may be feeling stressed and exhibiting symptoms of stress. Or if they seem fine right now, but you want to make sure they don’t feel stressed out in the future, below are some suggestions for helping with the summer stress in your household, and some activities to do with your kids to help them manage the emotions that come with summertime.
* Monitor your own stress levels. If your family has experienced something traumatic, financial difficulties, job loss, health issues, or marital discord, your child may be feeling a domino effect of your stress. How well they cope will be dependent on how well you manage your own stress.
* If you think your child is feeling stressed, take time out to give them extra attention. They may need love, assurance or just some undivided attention. Sometimes a little hugging can go a long, long way to make your child feel loved, secure and calm.
* If your family is going through a difficult time, sit down and talk with your child, letting them know you care about their feelings and understand their concerns. Give them some hope about current trying situations and help them to think positively about the future.
* If a child seems out of sort, help them get involved with activities they enjoy such as favorite toys, reading books, building blocks, coloring or cuddling their favorite stuffed animals. Sometimes quiet activities help them stay occupied on something and begin to feel relaxed.
* If your child seems completely overwhelmed, help them do some breathing exercises to calm down. Tell your child to pretend they are blowing up a balloon, breathing in through their nose and slowly out through their mouth. Also consider blowing bubbles with them and giving them time to calm down.
* Get out of the house. Take the child outside for fresh air, to take a walk, ride a bike, swim in the pool or play with the dog. A recent research study found that children with higher levels of physical activity were less stressed than sedentary children.
* Be a noticer. Keep an eye out for ways you can compliment or praise your child and make a deliberate effort to do this more often. This will not only build self esteem, but help them feel loved and appreciated which can reduce feelings of stress or anxiety.
* Start an art project. Kids love creating things and feel a sense of pride when finished. Since artwork in any shape or form is a quiet activity, this helps to calm the child down and help them to feel more relaxed.
* Listen to music. Set aside some time each day for the children to sit quietly and listen to music. Studies have shown that soothing music not only helps lessen stress and improves mood, but also lowers heart rate, blood pressure, and stress-hormone levels.
If you have noticed any symptoms of stress in your children, what has worked for you to help them calm down and deal with their emotions?
The winners of Friday’s drawings for 31 days of laminated scripture cards are:
1. CarrieC who posted at July 26, 2013 at 9:22 pm
2. Barb Metreyeon who posted at July 26, 2013 at 8:11 am
If you are the winner, send your mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org.