By Marté J. Matthews, LMFT
When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions,
it is our job to share our calm, not join in their chaos. –L. R. Knost
se are stressful times. Even as we enjoy a
Life here in Silicon Valley is hectic. The news can seem pretty bleak. We can’t protect kids from all of it no matter how hard we try. But we can do things as parents that help our kids learn ways to be resilient in the face of stress.
To help kids handle stress better…
Develop realistic expectations… not every child can handle the same things! The busy schedule that keeps one child stimulated and engaged may be too much for a highly sensitive child or a younger child. How many activities are appropriate? No more than: One sport per season, one art or music lesson a week, one cultural or religious event weekly. More than this quickly becomes stressful. Even this much may be too much in some families. If you are constantly running behind, reevaluate your choices.
Allow plenty of time for unstructured play… without screen time! As lessons, competitions and structure are added, kids’ stress levels may become too much for them to manage. Kids need time to play and use their imagination to be healthy.
Make sure you all get enough sleep…if adults or kids awaken irritable, or oversleep on weekends, they are not getting enough sleep each night. “Making up” sleep is a myth, not a healthy habit. Young kids need surprisingly early bedtimes!
Show your kids the healthy ways that you manage your own stress. Your children will learn by watching you, so make healthy choices. What do you want your children to learn? When the stress of the world is too much, try these ideas: Turn on some fun music and do a silly dance together. Snuggle up and read together. Sit down and do Lego’s together. Play a game. Turn off the screens & phones to shut out the world for a little while & enjoy your family.
Feeling a little stressed just thinking about trying to do all that? Start small. Think about one thing you try in the next week to help the stress level for yourself and your kids. Try it for a couple of days before you try the next change. Slow & steady is a great way to approach changes for your child and family.