Stress, stress, stress. When visualizing stress, we think of adults in the workforce, financial obligations, moving, and even getting married. What often goes undetected is the stress that children experience. Children often communicate their stress by acting out, changes in their sleep patterns, stomachaches, headaches, and so forth. Stress factors for children often revolve around change, which can impact a child’s feelings of safety and security. Changes in the family dynamics, changes in routine, or changing schools may trigger stress.
One of the essential life skills addressed in Ellen Galinsky’s book, Mind In the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs, is Taking On Challenges. Galinsky shares that adults can teach and promote strategies that children can utilize to cope with stress and be resilient.
To promote taking on challenges which result in stress, cohort participants suggested these tips:
• Let children know you are there for them, and they are not alone.
• Be patient.
• Listen without judgment.
• Allow children to articulate and acknowledge their feelings.
• Teach students that they can take small steps to overcome their anxiety/stress —put one foot in front of the other.
• Teach them strategies for coping with stress, such as take a walk or run, listen to music, deep breathing, counting, etc.
• Encourage students to connect with your “feel good” person—someone that always makes you feel good; a friend, family member or someone who works at your school.
• Repeating soothing words or a mantra to assist with calming.
Stress is inevitable, and having the life skills to overcome stressful times and situations can better prepare a student to cope. As caregivers, we must recognize that what is stressful to one child may not be to another, and stress, no matter what shape it takes, is very real. Providing students coping tools to practice when they are not in stressful situations will allow them to implement them effectively when they’re stressed.