5 Stress-Busting Ideas For Children
Kids are busier than ever, no matter the age. Younger kids are often involved in multiple sports; middle school students are learning how to balance a growing social life with a challenging course load. High school students are often juggling multiple advanced classes while trying to decide their next step after graduation.
With tight schedules, high expectations and kids back to school this month, it is no wonder that many kids are anxious and just plain stressed out. WellStar pediatrician Saudiqa Hoossainy, M.D. hears about these incredible stress levels daily.
“Kids have been placing more expectations from the outside world on themselves, and they feel they need to live up to these expectations,” she said, citing social media as a big factor.
“Something that many parents do not realize is that children’s stressors are as important to them as adult stressors are to adults. While parents may be anxious about paying bills or a big presentation, kids may be just as stressed when thinking about applying to their dream school or playing in a state championship game.”
While adults often don’t want to see their kids experience stress, there is no way to avoid stress completely. Dr. Hoossainy assures parents it is healthy for a child to experience some levels of stress, as long as the child is able to cope. Ways to deal with stress can vary based on the age of the child. Dr. Hoossainy has tips for parents and kids:
Use a chart for deadlines to break down large projects. Using colored pens can make the chart fun and more visually appealing. Also, kids can look at the chart and get satisfaction for completing a task.
Having something to supply comfort when nervous can make a big difference for children. Parents and children can make colorful worry rocks together at home. Children can keep the special rocks in their pockets and rub them when they feel anxious or fidgety.
Deep breathing exercises can calm the mind and be adapted for all ages. Little ones can try a 5-5 plan: they can take a deep breath in while counting to five, then let it out while slowly counting to five. Older children can try a 4-8-8 plan: breathe in while counting to four, hold their breath while counting to eight, then slowly breathe out while counting to eight again. The artificially slow breaths help kids take a step back from stressful situations and can sometimes be enough for them to cut short their anxiety. Breathing exercises are easy to practice at bedtime and are great for classroom or testing settings because they can be completed at a desk.
Older students need to have “break days” during the week where they do not schedule any activities. They can use this time to connect with their family and catch up on homework.
It is important for children to know that they are able to reach out to an adult if they are dealing with stress. “Parents should relay the message that there is always someone there to help you if you find yourself overwhelmed; all you have to do is ask,” Dr. Hoossainy said.
To find a pediatrician or schedule an appointment, call 770-956-STAR (7827) or visit wellstar.org for more information.