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Stress Management For Children

written by marci zaroff

Stress Management For Childrenstress management for children
As a working mother who founded and directs the organic fiber fashion company Under the Canopy (www.underthecanopy.com), I know a thing or two about combining work and family life. In fact, I consider my daughter Jade and son Mason to be my greatest teachers. While I find major bliss in watching them grow up, the world that they are growing up in is so different from the one today’s parents experienced as youths. 21st century reality is way more time-crunched, stressed out and impersonal. It’s also way more competitive.

Parents must therefore do whatever we can to help our children manage their stress while they make their way through the world. I have formulated some stress reduction philosophies that I use on a regular basis and have also acquired some from other parents. I want to share these with other parents and caregivers. Here are my top five tips for helping comfort and empower stressed-out kids:

Never react negatively to weird, wiggy behavior of your kids. If your child is having a tantrum, for example, you must make every effort to stay calm and unruffled. Many kids like to see what kind of reaction they can elicit– they are amateur psychologists looking to figure out how you wield your parental power. The best way to behave is to do steady, deep breathing BEFORE you react. Once you feel centered and calm, then start speaking– and empathize with them rather than blaming or denigrating them. “I know how you feel, but….” is a good way to start. Staying calm and empathizing is a very powerful way to show your kids that they, too, can calm down. Whether you send them to their room for a time-out or not is up to you, but modeling serenity this way always helps reduce their stress.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but if your child has a naturally high-strung disposition, you must make sure that they are getting enough sleep each night. Some children really can’t cope with getting up to early in the morning and therefore can’t be expected to be cheery or do well at school if they are sleeping an hour or two less than required. Pre-schoolers and kindergarten-aged kids need about twelve hours each night. Teenagers especially require at least ten hours of sleep as they are growing and stressed from all the physical, emotional, sexual and intellectual changes that are going on in their lives.

Many children have performance anxiety related to tests and athletic events. If your kid dreads math tests or gym class, make it clear to them that this is totally natural. Then give them some tools that will help them learn how to master their stress. Perhaps the greatest resource for teaching children emotional self-management is the Institute of HeartMath www.heartmath.org in Boulder Creek, CA. HeartMath sells desktop biofeedback programs that involve a fingertip pulse sensor that plugs into your computer as well as software that measures heart rhythms. Computer games that the children play teach them with colorful graphics how to control their breathing and heart rhythms so that they can learn to feel when they are getting anxious. The games also teach kids (and adults) how to focus on their hearts and manage their stress so that they maintain awareness and control of their emotions during challenging situations.

The following technique works only for kids up to around age twelve, but it’s a good one. If your child is actively resisting you on some point and growing more disagreeable by the nanosecond, tickle him or her to break the tension and change his or her mood. Once they start laughing, make goofy faces, tell jokes, and do anything you can to keep them laughing for a few minutes so that they can release their pent-up negative energy. Then steer the conversation back to the issue at hand and try to reason with the child about why they need to follow your instructions.

If your child is being bullied at school (this is far more common than parents like to admit), first find out the names of the alleged bullies, get a description from your child of the events and ask him or her if there are any witnesses. Then write up a timeline and description of the bullying incidents, including names of the alleged bullies. Advise your child to avoid children who are bothering him or her and report any incidents to teachers or school personnel immediately. Write a letter to your child’s school principal and teacher to report that your child says he is being bullied; include the timeline and description you wrote up. Make an appointment to meet with the principal and teacher. If your school has a psychologist or a nurse, then copy them on your letter, as well. Present your evidence and work as a team to see what kind of measures can be taken to stop the bullying. Most important, tell your child about the efforts you are making on his or her behalf. This will make them feel safer and definitely less stressed.

It’s been confirmed in much psychological research that children mirror their parents’ and caregivers’ energies. So it follows that one of the best things you can do to help your kids manage their stress is to cultivate your own calm. Toward that end, make it a daily habit. When you wake up, meditate in the morning for fifteen minutes on how you are going to manage your day and help your child. Take a vigorous walk every day and focus on your breathing and how good it feels to move your body through time, space and light.

Bliss is your birthright. Stay calm and you will find it and share it with your children.
Marci Zaroff is a leading force in organic fiber fashion and the green business movement. Her Under the Canopy line of clothing for women, men, children and infants is available at www.underthecanopy.com and at select Whole Foods Markets around the U.S.A.

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