Here are some tips on how to help kids deal with stress.
A few weeks ago I was losing patience, and sat the kids in front of the television so I could get some things done. After a bit I sat down and joined them. Then I noticed the music from the kid’s show was particularly menacing, and my daughter stood up and started shaking and clapping her hands together like she was very nervous.
People were running around afraid of the “monster” who was really a girl with pizza dough stuck on her face making her unidentifiable. That in itself would probably have been okay, but the music was very scary and emotional for a children’s show and the other characters kept seeing her and screaming.
This might seem like no big deal to a grown-up, but she has talked about it ever since. It truly affected her and I felt awful that I didn’t carefully approve what she was watching and simply trusted it was going to be okay. Since that time – and since it affected her so – we’ve done some things to help her move past it.
Some typical situations that are stressful for kids include:
- baby sitters
- rejection by peers
- getting lost
- separation from parents
- incidents with animals
as well as many other things. Each child will be different and what stresses each child will be also! So here are my tips on how to help kids deal with stress.
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Let it or help it resolve
After I saw how the show was affecting her I immediately wanted to turn it off. However, I knew that eventually they’d take the pizza off her head and everyone would see she was the pretty girl. I decided to let her finish this part of the show so she could see that for herself. It dragged on a bit and I was regretting my decision, but by this time my husband had come over and agreed with my strategy.
Eventually they uncovered the “monster” and saw it was the girl, and this did a little to help her. I could have turned the show off immediately – and depending on what is happening, complete separation might be best – but in this case I knew that it would be best for her to finish seeing the show.
If they are dealing with an issue with friends or school, you may need to help them come to a resolution of what’s bothering them. It isn’t always easy to just “get over” something if there hasn’t been any closure.
Help calm them down
If your child is actively stressed and anxious, it’s necessary to calm them down before you can help them process the event that has upset them. Each child is different and this can be done a number of ways. You can hug them, take them to a quiet room, pray with them, let them lay down, and even diffuse essential oils in the room. This will help them to be able to deal with the stress in a more calm manner.
Ignoring doesn’t help and time doesn’t heal
Ignoring and waiting can help you to forget things slightly, but they do not heal. Ignoring something that really bothered your child or just waiting for time to pass so they are over it is not likely to help. In fact, in many instances, both of these make things worse. If a big dog jumps on them (even being friendly) and they become deathly afraid of dogs, time won’t help. On the contrary, in time they’ll likely develop a sort of dog phobia that will be harder to deal with later.
Deal with something head-on. I’m not going to make a mountain out of some silly pizza dough on a girl’s head, but I will address it when it comes up and not pretend it’s not a big deal. Particularly when it obviously was a big deal to her.
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Find ways to bring it back to the surface to help process
In our case I didn’t have to find ways to bring up the issue because she kept saying “the girl had pizza on her head and it scared me.” I decided to get a little creative. I took a bath towel and stood in front of her and then put the bath towel over my head. Then I proceeded to spin around like the girl from the show, and then I took the towel off. I tried to parallel this illustration to the girl with the pizza and it worked.
Afterwards, she would bring it up, but without that same emotional fear in her voice. She would bring it up to say “that was not a monster, it was a girl with pizza on her head.” If you know something is bothering your child, yet they are stewing in silence, try to get to the bottom of it. Put them in situations where they’ll need to bring it up and get it out on the table. This will bring back some hard emotions, but that is the whole point. To move past an event the emotions need to be resolved at the surface, not ignored.
No making fun
It would have been pretty easy – for some people, I suppose – to make fun of her for being scared. It never crossed my mind that her fears were silly. As mothers we must be very careful not to make fun of our children in a way that makes them feel stupid, insecure or anxious. Now I’m not a highly sensitive person, so know that I don’t think that we need to walk on eggshells to never offend. That’s not how I was made.
However, I’d never call a fear or worry of my children’s silly. If you hear another sibling making fun of them you need to nip it in the bud immediately. Ridicule will not make them less scared, it will only make them feel scared and stupid.
Be kind, loving and strong
When my children aren’t doing so well I get this horribly compassionate “I am dying because you are in pain” look on my face that I’m not too sure helps anything. Sometimes, in fact, I think it worries them. While bathing my daughter during a bad outbreak of eczema, I literally couldn’t stop crying. It was so disturbing to me that my husband had to finish the bath. Completely ridiculous I know, but there it is.
I’ve come to think it’s best if we clearly show that we are sympathetic to their worries and fears, but still act like we have it firmly in hand. Coming across as confident and supportive can help bring that added level of security that our children are looking for from us.
Life will bring trouble and worry. We can’t avoid it and aren’t wise to protect our children from it fully. Why? Because they need to learn how to deal with hurtful or scary things. Children don’t need to learn to push down their emotions. I’ve said time and time again what that does, and it ain’t good.
If you think your child is suffering from a memory, event or worry, try to help them bring it to closure and process it in a way they can go forward without fear. If an incident planted a seed of doubt or worry in their little hearts, help them to unearth it before it takes root and grows bad fruit.