Stress: help kids to cope

To adults, childhood can seem like a carefree time but kids still experience stress.

To adults, childhood can seem like a carefree time but kids still experience stress.

Things such as school and social life sometimes create pressures that can feel overwhelming for kids.

As a parent, you cannot protect your kids from stress, but you can help them develop healthy ways to cope and solve everyday problems. It's not always easy for parents to know what to do if a child is feeling stressed. Here are a few ideas:

l Notice out loud - Tell your child when you notice that something is bothering him or her. If you can, name the feeling you think your child is experiencing. Be sympathetic and show you care and want to understand.

l Listen to your child - Ask your child to tell you what is wrong. Listen attentively and calmly with interest, patience, openness, and caring. Avoid any urge to judge, blame, lecture or say what you think your child should have done instead.

l Comment briefly on the feelings you think your child was experiencing- For example, you might say: "That must have been upsetting," or "No wonder you felt mad when they would not let you into the game." Feeling understood and listened to helps your child feel supported. That is especially important in times of stress.

l Put a label on it - Many kids do not yet have words for their feelings. If your child seems angry or frustrated, use those words to help him or her learn to identify the emotions by name. Putting feelings into words helps kids communicate and develop emotional awareness.

l Help your child think of things to do - If there's a specific problem that's causing stress, talk together about what to do. Encourage your child to think of a couple of ideas. Your child's active participation will build confidence.

l Listen and move on - Sometimes talking and listening and feeling understood is all that's needed to help a child's frustrations begin to melt away. Afterwards, try changing the subject and moving on to something more positive and relaxing.

l Limit stress where possible - If certain situations are causing stress, see if there are ways to change things. For instance, if too many after-school activities consistently cause homework stress, it might be necessary to limit activities to leave time and energy for homework.

l Just be there - Kids don't always feel like talking about what's bothering them. Even when kids don't want to talk, they usually don't want parents to leave them alone. You can help your child feel better just by being there - keeping him or her company, spending time together.

l Be patient - As a parent, it hurts to see your child unhappy or stressed, but try to resist the urge to fix every problem. Instead, focus on helping your child grow into a good problem-solver, a kid who knows how to roll with life's ups and downs, put feelings into words, calm down when needed, and bounce back to try again. - From Kids Health