Coping with stress in kids

Posted: 20 May, 2016

By: Annemarie Lombard

Section: Education, Parenting

Coping with stress in kids

A gorgeous, 8-year old enters my therapy room, fidgety, tense and sensitive to everything around him. He sighs and says: “those kids are so loud”; “so and so are mean to me”; “I have so much work to do”; “when do the holidays start?” Term has just begun and already he is worn out. I look gently at him and ask him to lie down on the big mat and to close his eyes for just a few minutes. Just 10 seconds goes by with his eyes constantly flickering open, and there he is, upright and running to bash the big therapy ball; he just cannot be still and relaxed.

We live in such a high paced society, a way of life that demands so much so quickly, and we often forget this stressful way of life affects our children directly as well. We find ourselves wanting them to succeed in life so our children have extra lessons 2-3 times a week, do an extra-curricular activity each afternoon (and on weekends!) and then have to try squash in homework and study. Too often we associate correct development and progress as only actively “doing” things. When last did we allow them to simply play in the garden, scribble or doodle on a large writing pad, or simply be still and chill out? When last were we still ourselves and also with our children?

One of the best ever bits of advice I was given as a mother was to walk around our garden with my two little boys and pick and smell the flowers. Besides the numerous sensory experiences in that process, what a slow and calm way of spending half an hour; all 3 of us, (mum especially!) started smiling and enjoying just being. Sadly, it has happened all too infrequently, a sign of our busy, stressed lives as children and adults.

We need to learn to capture teeny bits of time to look, listen, touch, smell, taste, and move in silence. There is a big magical world out there waiting to be explored and captured. It will be through the times of quiet and stillness that we truly engage and reconnect with ourselves and our children so ready to explore.

Here are easy and practical tips to reconnect and de-stress:

  1. Set aside 10 minutes a day for yourself as a parent to walk outside, quietly.
  2. Sit on the grass, feel it under your hands, smell the flowers, listen to the birds, look quietly at the blue sky – show your child your wonderment at nature.
  3. Put away all phones, laptops, iPads for 30 minutes a day and devote that time to playing actively with your children – make it a non-technological time – throw a ball, build a puzzle, splash each other by the pool.
  4. Don’t set a target; don’t try to “solve” the task. Just simply get involved in whatever you and your child are doing, no matter what the end product is. Just be in the moment, have fun, laugh, be silly! Children are magical little beings and we forget how much we can learn from them.
  5. Make eye contact – look at your children and take note! What are they saying, wanting or needing. The answers are often right in front of us, if we just make the time to look for them.

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