I don’t know about you but when I’m stressed, it is OBVIOUS to everyone around me! But what about our kids? Children don’t always have the vocabulary or self-awareness to be able to articulate their emotions in a way that we can hear them. In fact, their emotions are so strong that just labeling them with a word (“you feel sad, angry, over-stimulated, overwhelmed”, etc.) makes the feeling seem more manageable and immediately helps them calm down. American kids are more stressed out than every before, how can we know if our kid is one of them?
Misbehavior – When you are seeing recurring patterns of misbehavior, try to figure out your child’s motivation for acting out: power, revenge, attention, excitement. If there isn’t one, it might be stress. See if you can find an underlying cause: overbooked schedule, stressful environment, lack of predictability or just misalignment with the child’s authentic self (too much coping required).
Forgetfulness – “I forgot my Math book and I have a test tomorrow!” can be a normal problem but if it’s happening regularly, the child may be either stressed or self-sabotaging.
Illness – Some kids have magic bodies that won’t let them detour too far off track. Notice if your child easily gets headaches, stomachaches, excema, colds, flus, etc. I know whenever I’ve had a job that wasn’t good for me, I was constantly dealing with one illness after another.
Checking Out – Some kids do a marvelous job at taking care of themselves when stressed. If you notice your child daydreaming, mentally zoning out or shifting into a trance-like state, congratulate yourself on having such a self-reliant child, but note that they are probably stressed.
Clouded decision making – I remember seeing a Dad telling his 4 year old he could have any toy in the whole store and this kid proceeded to have a total melt down at Toys R Us. Sometimes what we think is fun, can be too overwhelming for kids and you’ll know they are stressed if they are having a hard time making simple decisions like what to wear, they want for dinner, or who to play with.
Arguing & Whining – We all take our stress out on those who are closest to us (ask my poor husband!). Kids are no different. When they get in the car after school and immediately start bickering, you know they are purging all the negativity they picked up during the day. Whining can usually be cured with loving attention or a nap.
Overeating, Under-eating, Difficulty Sleeping – Kids and parents alike.
Do you have a sensitive child? Sensitive children can be like the canary in the mine, alerting us to problems we all may experience if we don’t pay attention and switch gears. Luckily, there are MANY things you can do to reduce stress in kids, in fact too many for one blog post. Until next time, try working on just one: your own. We are all built to mirror the emotions of people around us unless we intentionally focus on holding a higher state. It can be really hard to feel good when your child doesn’t but it’s one of the most helpful things you can do for her/him. Your kids will automatically pick up on your worry, spoken and unspoken stress. Instead, find out what makes you feel good: exercise, sleep, yoga, healthy foods, life coaching, meditation, hiking, card games, gardening and do it. The quickest, most effective way to reduce stress is to switch your thinking. Say these words to yourself (if you can believe them) and to your children. “There is nothing I (you) have to do right now” “All is well” “It’s ok to rest” “Everything is unfolding exactly the way it’s supposed to”.
If you have another restful thought or mantra you love, please share it!