With increasing school demands, homework loads, extracurricular commitments, and social media – all on top of the typical childhood worries about transitions to new schools, navigating friendships, and sibling conflicts— today’s children are faced with far more stress than previous generations.
Of course, as Lynn Lyons, licensed social worker and author says, worrying and feeling anxious sometimes is normal, and a part of learning and growing. Too much worry and stress, however, can lead to school avoidance, behavior disruptions, and even long term health problems.
Helping kids learn to manage stress and live a balanced life can help them lead healthier, happier lives. Today we will discuss ways you can help your kids learn balance and stress management techniques.
Signs of Stressed Kids
Kids respond to stress in different ways. Some cope more easily and they may not present outwardly noticeable symptoms. Others are easily affected and won’t be able to communicate how they feel, which can result in negative physical and behavioral changes.
Some common outward signs that your child is stressed are:
- Sleep disturbances
- Unusual amounts of anger, whining, or easily crying
- Unable to control emotions at an age-appropriate level
- Withdrawal from activities (Doesn’t want to go to school or participate in sports they usually like)
What You Can Do: Five Steps to Managing Childhood Stress
Step 1: Give Your Schedule A Reality Check
Overscheduling is a common problem with today’s families, and it happens to be a major stressor for both parents and kids. Long school days with homework and studying when they get home, highly competitive and demanding travel sports schedules, music lessons, and very little downtime.
Help your family find balance by reviewing your weekly schedule and really evaluate – do you have any downtime? Kids need downtime – their minds and bodies need to rest, play, and have “chill time” as much as they need active learning and physical activity.
If you and your kids are constantly running from the time the bus leaves in the morning until lights out time at night, consider scaling back for everyone’s sake.
Step 2: Prioritize Sleep
Sleep is fundamental for children’s brain development, school performance, mood, and ability to deal with stress. Be sure your child is getting an appropriate amount of sleep for their age, limit electronics for at least ½ hour before bedtime, and establish a solid bedtime routine.
A bedtime routine can help kids of all ages relax and be ready to sleep when their head hits the pillow. It doesn’t have to be complicated – start with lowering the lights, take a bath or shower, brush teeth and use the toilet, pajamas on, quiet reading in bed, then lights out.
You can add a quick stretching/yoga routine, a few moments of mindfulness, prayer, or whatever suits your lifestyle.
Step 3: Start Your Days Right
Chaotic mornings set a stressed tone for the day. Just as it is important to have a solid bedtime routine, having a positive, low-stress routine to start your child’s day can reduce stress and help create balance for everyone. Some ideas to get you started:
- Do anything that can be done in advance the night before – lay out clothes, pack lunches, make breakfast choices, and pack backpacks.
- Establish a “parking spot” for morning essentials – shoes, backpacks, band instruments, seasonal gear, and computers all parked in a central place can really calm the rush.
- Only allow playtime or TV after the kids are 100% ready to go. Having 10 minutes of playtime before heading out is a great incentive to get moving and ready in a timely manner.
Step 4: Teach Mindfulness
Teach your child to recognize when their body is feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or even just tired, and help them manage by practicing mindfulness. Many elementary schools have implemented “mindful moments.”
Teachers are seeing improvements in concentration, anxiety, and handling difficult days. You can also implement these techniques at home.
Step 5: Make Healthy Food Choices
Eating a balanced diet full of healthy, whole foods is important for your child’s overall wellness, including managing stress. Steering clear of highly processed, high sugar foods can help keep your child’s immune system strong and improve gut health – which in turn helps them manage stress.
Some foods even help boost feel-good chemical levels like serotonin; others help keep blood sugar balanced, like whole-grain bread, old fashioned oats, and whole-grain pasta. Eating foods high in vitamin C, like oranges, tomatoes, broccoli, and sweet potatoes, can help curb stress hormones and strengthen the immune system.
Implementing these stress managing habits today will help them create lifelong habits for a healthy, happy life. Need more guidance on nutrition and stress management for yourself and your kids? Connect with us at South Orange Chiropractic to set up an appointment.