“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” Henry Ford
Bulletproof backpacks, a popular item purchased for students as they headed back to school last year, are just one example of the type of stress children today are facing. Add to that the almost constant input of media, whether in the form of screen-time or audio, and it’s easy to start to understand how much our children need help managing their day-to-day stress.
According to the American Psychological Association, nearly 1 in 4 children (approximately 20%) “report worrying a great deal”. Parents, however, underestimate how much their children worry, with only 3% of parents rating their child’s stress levels as “extreme”. This disconnect might be one of the reasons why so many children don’t know how to manage their stress: If parents don’t recognize or understand it, who else can they turn to?
While your child worries about different things, it doesn’t make their stress any less significant. Children, like adults, can begin to develop mental health issues, like anxiety and depression, if their stress is left unmanaged. Long-term, this stress can have a negative impact on developing brains, which then translates to potentially serious health concerns, including obesity and diabetes. For children in school, stress can be detrimental on their ability to learn, both academically and socially.
Below are three of the most common (and serious) stressors for kids:
- Thirty years ago, school was still at the top of the list for what stresses kids out. Today, those stress-inducing situations haven’t changed (think homework, friendships, bullies, teachers, etc.), but now there is also the added stress of safety at school. While younger kids aren’t as likely to worry about school safety, as kids get older this can become more of an issue. For many older students, stressing about school can fairly quickly manifest as anxiety.
- Being a great parent doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to have your child doing something each and every day. In fact, some experts believe that over scheduling your child can lead to stress. Regardless of how many activities you have your child enrolled in, be sure to make time for free play - it’s a great way to reduce stress and a great opportunity to learn important social skills.
- Your Behavior. Your stress gets passed to your kids, which means that it’s important to keep yours in check. Because kids model your behavior, when you’re stressed they look to see how you respond. If you respond negatively, then your child will do the same when they get stressed. While you can’t avoid stress completely, it’s important that you’re aware about how your emotions impact your kids. Do your best to manage your stress by taking care of yourself and, when you are feeling stressed, don’t hide it from your kids. When you model how to healthily manage stress, your children learn how to do the same.
One of the best ways to help your child learn how to manage stress is by practicing mindfulness. Helping your child identify how they’re feeling and why helps to make stress feel less consuming and out of control. Mindfulness is something that can be practiced each and every moment of the day. And, because of its adaptability, mindfulness is an incredible tool to give your child, especially if they’re showing signs of stress.
Like meditation, getting the help of a master mindfulness teacher can help you better understand what it is and how it works. This one-on-one “live” attention can also help you address specific needs and concerns.
AnJenette Afridi, MA, ERYT-500, is a pioneer in Lifestyle Medicine, Mindful-Based Strategies, and Creator of INHALE EXHALE SMILE℠ Meditation and Mindfulness Targeted Skills-Based Training. AnJenette is a Lifestyle Medicine Consultant and a Meditation and Mindfulness Master Teacher with 30+ years in private practice. “AJ’s” professional credentials include a Master’s Degree in Psychology (MA) 1997, Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (ERYT-500) 2002, American Psychological Association (APA) Member 1996, American College of Lifestyle Medicine Member, Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine Member, and Harvard Medical School CEU’s in Lifestyle Medicine and Mind Body Medicine (Herbert Benson, MD) the last 15 years.
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AnJenette aka AJ has worked with corporations, hospitals, health centers, schools, and private clientele including adults and children. She is often featured at public and private in-person and online events, and she hosts events as well. AJ's warmth, credibility, and energetic sense of humor create an atmosphere that supports expansion, creativity, and abundant possibility.
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This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical issue or disease. The author does not in any way guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of this article and will not be held responsible for the content of this article. The information in this article is not intended to replace a personal relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Always consult your personal health care provider for specific medical advice.