Going to school can already spark stress for some students, and with the COVID pandemic, it is no mystery why stress levels could heighten. Paulette Chaffee, a speech therapist and teacher, suggests these tactics for parents to teach their children how to cope with stress:
Learn How to See Stress
Stress can motivate students to study for tests or perform well in sports. However, too much stress can be detrimental to a student’s physical and mental health. Physical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, or weakening of the immune system can all be caused by prolonged stress. Long-term stress can also fuel mental disorders like anxiety and depression. The first step a parent can take is to know what stress looks like for their child.
Stress can appear in many different forms for children, including changes in behavior or eating habits, unrestful sleeping, procrastination, irritability, anger, excessive worry or sadness, or an increase in sick days.
Be the Steady Role Model
Children often replicate their parents’ actions, so it is crucial for parents to practice and set an example for healthy coping mechanisms when stressed. A common source of anxiety for younger-aged children includes tension at home, which parents must come to terms with to help better set their child up for handling stress now and in the future. Infusing patience into every action, big or small, can help parents maintain the cool they need to practice healthy coping when stressed in the presence of children.
Give A Listening Ear Instead of a Solution
Parents should not always appear as heroic problem-solvers whenever their child is stressed. To better aid in helping a child deal with stress long-term, acting as a brainstorming buddy to help them develop their own solutions is much more proactive. Similar to homework, it is more beneficial to work with a child to solve a problem rather than provide all the answers.
Influence the Right Mindset
For most people, stress is often unpleasant to experience. That is why children often fall victim to a “stress hurts” mindset. However, parents can help their children shift this “stress hurts” mindset to a “stress helps” mindset, showing how stress is an open door for growth opportunities. A “stress helps” mindset can help children gain a growth mindset perspective that demonstrates the mental power one has to influence a situation positively.
Make Time for Exercise
Routine exercise is an excellent way to help kids relieve stress. Physical activity can reduce stress at any age, so parents can benefit from joining in on the fun. In addition, getting the body moving outside can help reduce stress even more, as spending time outdoors can decrease depression, anxiety, and stress.
Be Open to Answer Questions
Some children benefit from being able to ask questions about what is stressing them out, for example, with topics such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests parents answer questions and share facts surrounding the pandemic if the COVID-19 outbreak continues to stress out a child. Answering questions and engaging in calm conversation around what is on a child’s mind can give them the reassurance they are looking for to feel grounded.
About Paulette Chaffee
Paulette Chaffee is an educator, children’s advocate, grants facilitator, lawyer, and member of various non-profit boards. She obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Redlands in Communicative Disorders and a California Lifetime Teaching Credential. She is currently the Ambassador for Orange County 4th District and a board member of All the Arts for All the Kids.