Childhood can be stressful, but we’re just now beginning to understand how stress can damage kids over the long term. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins, adults often “fail to recognize” just how much stress their kids are under and the effect it has on them. Stressed out children can suffer from sleep disorders, skin diseases, increased rates of infection, worsened symptoms from diseases like asthma and diabetes, and increased likelihood of being diagnosed with conditions like ADD/ADHD.
One of the first steps in dealing with a stressed child is recognizing the symptoms of stress and identifying what’s causing it. Family issues like divorce, absent parents, and financial problems can all cause stress. Starting a new school or daycare can bring on symptoms. Even world events — like terrorist attacks or wars — can trigger a stress reaction in small children who are reacting to the world around them.
The sooner you can teach your kids how to deal with stress, the better for your child’s long-term health. Teaching your kids how to deal with life’s setbacks and stressful moments helps them develop their emotional intelligence and increase their self-confidence. Here are six ways you can help de-stress your child:
Role play — Ask your toddler if you can play together with toys. Then role play a stressful scenario about a teddy bear feeling angry that his toy car fell to the ground. Let your toddler “teach” the teddy bear what to do feel better.
Bubbles — Bubbles are wildly entertaining for most toddlers. Try teaching your toddler to blow bubbles or just pretend to blow bubbles. You might be surprised how much fun and bonding results from blowing a few bubbles!
Teach awareness — Check to see if your child is able to understand basic concepts of emotions such as happy, sad, and mad, and then help your child recognize and identify his or her emotions. Can you and your child pinpoint what caused stress? What did it feel like? Did it make his or her heart pound? Hands shake? Giving your child an emotional vocabulary makes it easier to identify and defuse stressful times.
Problem-solve together — Does your toddler need a hug or some time to cool down? Don’t know? Ask! Offering your toddler a choice and letting him or decide not only demonstrates your faith in their problem-solving skills, but it also teaches them to get in touch with their emotions and let their hearts be their guide.
Arts and crafts — Drawing, coloring, painting, and playing with sand are all great stress relievers. Children can process their emotions while drawing or doodling.
Play — Play is an incredible tool children use to not only understand how the world works around them, but to process it and help develop opinions about the world. Giving your child space to play in a non-judgmental manner is a great stress-reliever. Try not to lead your child’s play … just sit back and watch (unless asked to join in). You will be amazed at what themes and experiences your child brings in to the play.
- Later Emotional and Behavioral Problems Associated with Sleep Problems in Toddlers
- JAMA Pediatrics.
- Zero to Three.
The Importance of Play in Early Childhood Development
- Montana State University.
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