Monday, September 1, 2014

School Stress

School is back in session and along with it comes the stress! Between packing lunches, transporting kids back and forth from extra curricular activities and keeping up with their homework, let alone staying on top of your own responsibilities, stress is in the air.  On a positive note, you will get use to the routine once more (just in time for Winter Break!)
Parents are often surprised to hear from their children that they are stressed out.  Kids experience stress just like adults.  Whether young or old, stress is a part of our lives.  Kids have social stress and performance stress, family stress and personal stress.  In some ways their stress can be more profound because of the lack of control and influence they have in their lives.  They don't have as many choices as adults do.  Their choices are limited to what the adults in their lives dole out to them. 

With all the stress that parents have in their daily lives, they may fail to show compassion for their children when they show signs of stress.  "What do they have to be stressed about?" they wonder, "they have it easy compared to adults".  This perspective is often quite demoralizing for kids who are feeling a true response based on their own experience.  Adults have lived on this planet for many years and have built up personal resources and developed useful coping skills. Kids have only a limited range of life experiences from which to pull. It's nearly impossible for them to put themselves in their parents shoes in order to compare how others experience stress.  They only know what it's like being in school and facing the demands that go along with that.  This is their reality. 

Studies show that when parents actively support their children in building coping skills and practice a communication technique called active listening, kids have a greater chance of being successful in overcoming their obstacles. Parents can begin by showing understanding and compassion for their children; even reflecting and sharing stories about their school years.  It is important for kids to feel that they are not alone in what they feel.  Teaching kids guided meditation or breathing and mindfulness techniques are extremely effective. CD's for kids meditation and guided imagery are readily available on you tube and Amazon, and possibly your local library.

Providing healthy meals for your kids loaded with good protein as often as time will allow is imperative.  Without adequate nutrition our bodies and brains can easily spiral downwards with the slightest shove from stress.  Incorporating a B Complex Supplement has been shown to aid our nervous system in retaliating against the effects of stress. 

Our teens need as much sleep as our toddlers, even though they may resist this! Sleep is necessary in order to recover and reboot from the days events.

Encourage your child to get at least 20 min. of physical exercise a day.  It's a wonderful way to work out the cortisol (stress hormone) from the body. 

If you are familiar with these basics and have these elements in place, here are a few other ideas to incorporate.  I had a physician who told me she believed in the powers of fresh air and sunshine to aid in the healing process; you don't hear that too often anymore, but I think she was very wise in spreading this advise.  Allow kids the opportunity to connect to nature by being outside.  Observing the trees, the bugs, the birds, etc. reminds us that we are a part of something greater. The concept of feeling a part of a greater whole is comforting.  There is a constancy and peacefulness in nature that waits for us to tune into it and then shares it's essence with us.
Sometimes your children may need to simply talk out their feelings.  In times like these it's important to listen attentively and not jump into advise giving.  Problem solve with their help, ask for their input on how they see themselves improving on an issue. The more influence they perceive themselves having on their lives, the more effective they feel and the more they will be able to handle stress in present and in the future!

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