How to Raise Mentally Strong Kids
Childhood is the time for having fun and living life without the burden of financial and other everyday responsibilities, so what could a child possibly have to worry about?
This is perhaps one of the most common misconceptions people have about children and a result many suffer from the effects of stress in silence and grow ill-equipped to deal with the real world.
The reality is that childhood is not free from worry; in fact, a study carried in Australia back in 2015 indicated that up to 1 in 5 children worried the majority of the time. Subjects most likely to invoke worry in kids including family and the future.
And as you can probably imagine other common themes included bullying, friends and school.
Not only do the above findings highlight that worrying is a real problem among kids, but the study also highlighted that most of those surveyed said they were unlikely to talk about these worries with others.
The major reason why kids seem to be reluctant to discuss their worries with loved ones is fear of embarrassment. So not only are kids experiencing the aches of worrying in silence, but they’re also unwilling to seek help.
So what can you do?
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that facing barriers and navigating the normal stresses and strains of life are something that all children must face.
However, the essential message here is that they must have the necessary coping strategies in their cache to allow them to deal with stress in a healthy and positive way.
Here are some strategies to help you and your child approach stress the right way:
Recognize the Signs of Stress
Although all kids can experience stress of some sort, it’s more likely that they will experience more stress as they grow and have to experience more of everyday life. This includes school, socializing and health check-ups to name a few.
It’s a wise idea to learn how to recognize certain stress triggers in your child, that way you can pinpoint exactly where the issues lie and how to deal with them most effectively.
Therefore, as yourself, what causes your child stress? Every child is different, so this could include social situations, visits to the dentist or simply being in a new environment.
Once you know their triggers, you can help them mentally prepare themselves prior to the situation. The key here is not to completely avoid the situation but help them adjust accordingly.
Common signs of stress in kids include sweating, increased heart rate, blushing and an attempt to avoid whatever it is that may cause stress and worry.
Being aware of when your child is showing signs of stress can really help you identify the problem and help guide them through the situation.
Strategies to Help Kids Deal with Stress
There are many strategies you can employ to help your child handle their thoughts and feelings. The one you use will largely depend on the specific circumstance, however, here are some of the most common techniques you can employ in a wide range of situations:
#1 Changing Thoughts
When we experience stress it is usually caused by some underlying thought process and kids are no different. A great technique is termed “reframing,” which teaches you to see things from another perspective instead of always prophesying doom.
In order to practice reframing with your child follow these steps:
- First, ask them how they are feeling about the triggering situation and ask them to describe their thoughts. You can easily do this by asking them to write them on a piece of paper.
- Explain to them that it’s perfectly normal to have these thoughts, but that doesn’t always mean that they are true – it’s important for us to challenge them.
- Explain that there is always a chance that the opposite perspective is true – you can easily illustrate this using a coin, showing two sides – heads and tales. Explain that when we have negative thoughts, it’s important to frame them to be able to see the other side.
#2 Breathing Exercises
When we get stressed, our breathing changes, typically becoming shallower and often it can be accompanied by other physical symptoms such as a fast heart rate.
Kids feel these too and so learning how to deal with them in a logical way can really help them feel in control of the situation and ease the feelings associated with stress.
Teach this exercise to help:
- Tell your child to inhale deeply through their nostrils. Explain that this needs to be done slowly and to imagine that their lungs are filling as an inflating tire would do if you were pumping it up.
- Once they are full of air, ask them to hold it for a brief moment.
- Instruct them to breathe out via their mouth slowly and as they do their abdomen should go back to its normal state.
- Repeat as necessary and bear in mind that they should stand up straight and do it calmly and slowly. This is a great exercise they can do to help them find calm during even the most stressful of times.
#3 Prepare them to Deal with Mistakes
Often kids become stressed due to fears about making mistakes. Make sure to reassure them that they are not expected to be right all the time, but to simply try their best. As Mom Bible underscores, self-confidence in children comes from having confidence in one’s own abilities, which in turn affects how people behave and ultimately impacts their happiness.
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Even though kids need to learn how to make successful choices and be aware of their abilities, it’s also important that they learn how to deal with making bad ones and the consequences that may result.
Explain to your children that making bad decisions is a normal part of life and everyone does it. Lead by example and demonstrate how they can recover from poor decisions by apologizing and then moving on and learning from them.
#4 Proper Sleep is Essential
A good night’s sleep is essential for minimizing stress. When we are tired our energy levels are low, we are unable to think as we normally would and the slightest annoyance can feel much worse than it is in reality. Not only that, but sleep is essential for good academic performance.
In order to ensure your child’s getting adequate sleep, analyze their sleeping routine. Ideally, a child should get around 10 hours sleep on average, but this varies greatly depending on their age range – this is a great resource for checking how much sleep your child needs.
It’s always worth emphasizing the importance of sleep to your child, as it helps them understand its importance. In addition, it’s important to create an environment that will encourage a good night’s sleep. For example, make their bedrooms electronic device free, which means no TV, tablets or computers of any kind.
Childhood stress is a reality that can be tackled with proper awareness and employment of the right strategies. Therefore, ensure you become as competent as possible at recognizing the signs of stress so you can help your child navigate through their trials and tribulations with ease and comfort.
Your turn: What do you think about these 4 tips to help you raise mentally strong kids? What would you add?
About the Author
Jude McClean is a father of two boys, business owner and like to help others develop their kids in a positive and proactive way! You can visit Jude at Mom Bible.
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