Adults know the all-too-familiar weight of stress and the tolls it can take on the body. Between the pressures of a career, paying bills, and raising a family, adulthood can be a very stressful time. In fact, the pressures of life can force even the strongest adult to yearn for the simple pleasures of childhood. But is childhood as carefree as we think it is?
While childhood should be a carefree time for kids to grow and explore and learn, new studies show that kids are way more stressed than the kids of previous generations. The American Psychological Association conducted the Stress in America survey, which indicated that 36% of school-age children worry more than they did just last year alone. What’s even more unsettling is that 33% of children report stress-induced headaches, and about 44% of children have a hard time getting a good night’s rest. There’s no denying that today’s kids need a little bit less stress and little bit more zen in their lives. Here’s what you can do to help.
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Despite the increasing number of children who present with the typical symptoms of stress, the majority of parents (87%) don’t know why their kids are stressed, according to the Stress in America survey. Opening the lines of communication is the first step in reducing stress in your kids’ lives; after all, if you don’t know why they are stressed, how can you help them through the rough patch?
Even if your son or daughter isn’t quick to share the details, listen to whatever clues you do receive. A study from the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America has just given parents a big clue: stressed out individuals are more likely to use “emotional modifiers” in their language. What does that look in a child’s speech? If Junior is stressed, he’s more likely to say words like “really” and “very” to intensify his feelings.
2. Clear the calendar
Are today’s children bearing the weight of overbooked and crammed schedules? You bet. Without any free time to … well… be a kid, the feelings of stress can build. Blowing off steam after a tough day at school is crucial to maintaining good emotional health, but if the schedule is so booked that there’s zero time between practices, rehearsals, and homework, it’s time to rethink the extracurriculars. Extracurricular activities are good – so good – but they shouldn’t take over your child’s life.
Try scaling back and see how your son or daughter reacts. That might be just the ticket.
3. Make Family Dinners a Priority
It may seem simple, but making family dinners a priority can help relieve stress in a child’s life. A study from the University of Florida holds that children who regularly eat with their families experience less emotional stress. Perhaps this is because there is more opportunities for communication with the parents, but it is also creates more stability in the family which also decreases feelings of stress.
Try implementing some of these tips for making family dinners less stressful.
4. Keep adult problems between the adults
Sometimes a child may feel stressed with too much homework or because a bully is causing problems at school, but not all sources of stress are school or friend related. Sometimes children can feel stressed at home, particularly if Mom and Dad are going through a rough patch. Whether the parental relationship is rocky or if the bill situation is putting extra worry on the parents, these problems should be not showcased for a child to hear and worry about. If a child thinks that a situation cannot be solved by Mom or Dad, s/he is likely to try to take on the burden and thus become stressed.
Keep disagreements out of earshot of kids, and save all unpleasant conversations (“how are we going to pay this bill?”) for when the kids are asleep or away at school. At some point, children can learn about the complexities and worries of adulthood, but it isn’t fair to give adult problems to kids. Let the kids be kids, and fill them in on issues only when it is truly necessary – and even then, make it age-appropriate.
5. Create a comfortable home
This may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes the atmosphere of a home can play a big part in a child’s overall mental and emotional health. Ask yourself the following questions:
· Does my child have his/her own space? If not, how can you create a little sanctuary for your child? It doesn’t have to be big – just a space to call his own.
· Is there something at home that bothers my child? Maybe you just rescued a big dog, and your child is afraid of the dog. Is there a candle scent that gives your child a headache? Sometimes the fix can be that easy.
· Is there a comfortable place to unwind at home? Is the TV always blaring? Make sure your home is peaceful for little minds to rejuvenate.