Children’s stress is as real as ours. There are many situations that can drive our kids’ feelings of overwhelm and stress. What we are living through right now is not an exception. My triplets are 10 years old, and they are worried about what is happening (and about what could possibly happen): What if we get sick? What if the school does not start as always next year?
The list of “what ifs” does not stop.
It’s not the first time our kids have needed to manage uncertainty and stressful situations, as we have lived in three different countries during the last five years: they even needed to learn how to communicate in a new language when we moved to the US. Going through those situations has made me explore different ways to help them feel safe and confident. I have always encouraged my children to express themselves – I passionately believe that hiding or denying your feelings is not a good way to deal with the situation. But, when you are feeling overwhelmed, your feelings and thoughts are usually mixed and confusing. I have found that most of the time, to be able to use words to express their emotions, my kids need to do something else first, something that allows them to explore, live and experience what they are feeling.
These are my top 5 strategies to manage my children’s stress:
#1 – Change the Air
I have applied this strategy successfully since they were babies. Simply moving your child from the place where he or she started to feel uncomfortable works like magic. If you can go outside and they can breathe fresh air and feel the sun warming their skin, that is ideal. If not, another room in the house will do the trick. I have even used the windows to look through if it was too cold to be outdoors. You don’t need to talk – they don’t need to talk either. Give them (and yourself) some time to acknowledge that other things are happening, and some of them could even be comforting.
#2 – Encourage Movement
Any kind of movement is good: you can jump, dance, play tag, ride your bikes. Getting your kids engaged in physical and playful activities will help them to relax and move the energy stacked in the situation that bothers them. If you can do it outdoors, that’s great – nothing as feeling the wind in your face riding a downhill! If not, there are many virtual options you can try at home, look at my kids enjoying Jazzercise as part of the “Tuesdays Together”, a Wichita Mom initiative.
#3 – Special Bath Time
This is my kids’ favorite. I always keep some bath bombs that are reserved for these special occasions. I go all the way with this: I light some candles, put relaxing music, and even add some lavender essential oil droplets in the warm water. If you have more than two children it would be difficult to do it on the same day. During the first weeks of isolation, my kids took turns to have this special alone time at least once a week.
#4 – Arts & Crafts Time
My children love arts and crafts, and so do I. If your kids are like mine, providing them with time to get creative and explore different ways of expression is going to help you manage your children’s stress. When you do something that you enjoy, endorphins go high and that improves your ability to process emotions. This works the same way for kids. I have noticed that my kids are able to lose themselves more if I propose abstract art sessions and we use watercolors and big brushes or no brushes at all: I encourage them to just drop different colors close to each other and then move the page around o blew through a straw or just fold the paper in different directions. After that, they can just enjoy the colors or they can try to find figures or shapes hidden in their art and use markers or crayons to outline the images.
#5 – Quiet Time: Yoga/Meditation
My kids enjoy practicing yoga with me, most of the time. When they are dealing with stress or I noticed them overwhelmed, they could not be exactly in the mood. Is then when I insist – just a little- because I know how they are going to feel after the practice: and it works, it always works. I love “Yoga with Adriene” and there are many beginner practices that you can try, but maybe this video is one of my favorites. I also tried meditation with my kids during bedtime: sometimes I am the one guiding it, sometimes we use Smiling Mind. If you want to explore other options, check this Wichita Mom article.
These are my strategies and I’m sharing them with you because I know they work: they work with my kids and I think they could work with yours, too. Probably you are already using them or some of them or different ones. I can’t wait to know what you have to share about it!