Now that school is back in session, are your kids experiencing any anxiety about homework, tests, teachers and friends? Yes? I thought this would be the perfect time to post some helpful information to handle those stressful situations.
About a year and a half ago, I had the privilege to attend a seminar hosted by an extremely insightful and intelligent speaker by the name of Renee Jain. She grew up in St. Charles with two brilliant parents who were doctors and a prodigy brother. The pressure to succeed was very high in her household. At one point, she reached a level of stress that became her breaking point. She was depressed and cracked under the weight of that pressure. Her traumatic experiences inspired her to help others by explaining how children and adolescents can handle stress in a more positive way.
Here are some techniques she shared to try with your child when they are anxious.
- Stop reassuring your child. Reacting is the wrong way to approach a child who is stressed. Respond instead by using the fast food rule. Rephrase what they feel. Child: “I’m worried and my stomach hurts.” You: “You’re worried and your stomach hurts. Is that right?”
- Challenge your child. Let them lean into the discomfort of the stress instead of telling them to push those feelings away. They are totally normal feelings for everyone.
- Expand their vocabulary. Ex. I’m feeling jealous, overwhelmed, irrational, etc. It helps you pinpoint the problem instead of using vague words such as stressed.
- Give permission for the emotions. Ex. It’s o.k. to feel jealous. It doesn’t make you a bad person.
- Touch. Hold their hand or give your child a hug. Tell them you love them.
- Give your child space. Breathing down their neck about a test or getting their homework done just makes the situation worse.
- Role play. I love this one. We get a little silly swapping roles. I’ll be my daughter and she can be the mom. It gives your child some perspective to see the situation from a new angle.
- The origin of worry. This goes back to the flight or fight phase of cavemen. If we didn’t worry, we wouldn’t live to see another day. Flight is our response to stress. Worry=protection. Worry is good!
- Keep thoughts accurate. “I have no friends!” Is this true?
- Use if and when scenarios. If I play with so and so, this will happen.
- Turn the worry into a stuffed animal. Have your child talk to her worry.
- Make a checklist of tools to help their worries. Yoga, running, writing in a journal, going for a walk, hanging out with friends, watching a movie, etc.
I hope some of you find this list helpful. We all want what is best for our children. We can create a new set of expectations and change the way we approach stress. Just because someone isn’t happy 24/7 (and who is?!) doesn’t mean we have to fix them. Emotions occur for a reason and we were meant to experience the entire spectrum. So the next time your child is sad or worried, don’t look at it as something you need to fix as a parent. Trying some of the tools above has helped us immensely!
When all else fails, show them a corgi meme. 🙂