As adults we have become accustomed to thinking of stress as a normal part of our days. It’s true that some stress is good for us. This stress, eustress, is beneficial and is usually associated with feelings of anticipation and excitement. Unfortunately, many people deal more often with that negative or chronic stress that comes with worries about business, finances and life in general.
But now more and more children are dealing with the negative stress that adults are all too familiar with. Many stressors are related directly to academic performance, from standardized tests to college admissions exams to homework. Add to that balancing extracurricular and social activities, and it is easy to see why kids are more stressed today.
Parents can teach their children to cope with stress by modeling behavior that includes strategies for staying in control. Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Get organized. Whether it’s at home, school or work, organization is key to staying on top of what you have to do. As a family, use calendars and planners to help everyone stay on top of appointments, chores and homework. Create a schedule for each day to help your kids (and you) make sure there is time to get everything done. A set schedule will also you help stick to a bedtime routine. And sleep is one of the most important things a child needs to be able to handle stress. Help your child learn to plan ahead, to allow adequate time to complete tasks and to get plenty of sleep.
2. Plan downtime. Everyone’s busy. We get that. But we all need a little time each day to relax. So when you are creating your daily schedule, make sure that you include time to unwind. That doesn’t mean you can’t do anything during that time. You might include time for a family walk. (Remember that exercise is a great way to reduce stress!) Maybe you have a child who loves to read. Let them choose something that isn’t linked to schoolwork. On the other hand, you might just need some time to do absolutely nothing. Help your child find ways to let go of the stress and enjoy free time – and help them accept that it is important to relax.
3. Make room for social activities. Of course there are some things you just have to do – go to work, go to school, do laundry, clean your room. But there are also things that you want to do. Those activities need to have a spot on the schedule too. Staying active is actually beneficial for mental health and can help ease stress and depression. And an active social life not only helps people connect but provides the opportunity to learn new things. So go ahead and join the book club or fitness club. Sign your kids up for a Bricks 4 Kidz after-school program, pre-school class or summer camp. And looking forward to these activities can bring on eustress!