When you look at what you've got on your plate (kids, work, committees, house, garden, food, bills, aging parents, carpooling, Scholastic book orders, salvaging marriage, etc., etc.), compared to your child (school, playdates, colouring, gymnastic, Lego, park, snack, TV, and so on), naturally, you're going pick yourself as the more stressed individual.
Of course, we know and accept that teens experience all kinds of pressures, but through our grown-up lenses, the life of younger kids can seem pretty sweet and simple. It's easy to forget that they have their own real-life worries, or to dismiss the ones they express as inconsequential.
Sadly, my confident and fun-loving five-year-old seems to be at that age when the notion of peer acceptance dawns, and sometimes that manifests in the oddest ways. It would still never occur to him to be embarrassed by his own nudity, but if a new T-shirt is too big he might say, "That's so embarassing." When he hurt himself for the third time in short-succession yesterday (an unhappy trifecta of slipping down the basement stairs, bonking his nose on an arm rest and stubbing his toe), he said, "Everyone will think I'm so silly for hurting myself three times." I mean, who cares what they think? And who would I tell? (Oops!) But it's as if, in his mind, his whole senior kindergarten class might get wind of this.
With the return of school and the adjustment to new routines and new relationships that it brings, Concerned Children's Advertisers offers these suggestions for helping children manage stress, however big or small.
- Anxiety about anything new is a normal experience. Share a situation from your
childhood in which you experienced anxiety as a way to let your child know you
understand what he or she is going through.
- Be open and available to talk with your child. Let your child know that you will
always find time to talk about what is going on in his or her life.
- Routines are important to your child’s level of comfort. Set a bedtime, homework
time, sharing time, play time and down time. Try to keep to the schedule as much as
- Communicate with those who influence your child’s life. As soon as you see
signs of stress, make an appointment to speak with your child’s teachers, coaches
and/or family doctor.
- Maintain important friendships. Reinforce how relationships with friends play an
important role in our lives. Take the initiative to set up play dates for your children with
a variety of their friends.
- Exercise appropriate strategies handling your own stress. Children are very
observant and watch how parents handle stressful situations. Be a good role model
as your child is likely to adopt the strategies you use to cope with stress.
- Eat Smart. A balanced diet, in accordance with Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy
Eating, provides the necessary fuel to nurture your child’s brain and body.
- Move More. Encourage your child to find a good balance between active and passive
activities. Sport, fitness and playtime do a lot to help reduce stress.
- Be Media Wise. Be aware of the content and amount of time in which your child
with various media.
Speaking of stress, here's a story about a teen who has had plenty to deal with, and her quest to dispel myths about mental health.
And check out the passionate exchange happening between readers of this story on the school agenda with an unfortunate typo.