Many kids experience the effects of stress or anxiety at some point in their childhood. Whether the problem stems from an issue at school, home, or an emergency, these difficult situations may cause unnecessary stress—and even worse, your child may not say anything about it.
So what can you do? Child and adolescent psychologist, D’Arcy Lyness, offers these parenting tips to help your child cope with stress:
Don’t be afraid to speak up when you see that something is troubling your child. This can be a simple comment that shows you’re interested in learning more about your child’s unsettling matter. Avoid making allegations or saying anything that could make your child feel incriminated or attacked (e.g. “Well, that was stupid—You should feel bad about what happened at school”). Statements that make an observation (such as, “It seems like you’re still upset about what happened at school”) are more likely to make your child feel comfortable about opening up.
Be attentive and pay close attention to your child’s concern when you ask what is wrong. It’s okay if your child reveals a problem that causes you to worry (in fact this is common)—just remain calm, don’t panic, and accept the situation as an opportunity to help. Listen to the whole story and probe for more information by asking questions such as, “So what happened next?” Avoid the temptation to lecture your child about what he or she should have done, and steer clear of comments that may cause your child to feel judged or at fault for the issue.
Show empathy and concern about your child’s feelings. You can say things such as, “You must have felt awful when they said that to you;” or “That makes sense why you’re upset right now.” An empathetic response shows that you understand why your child is stressing—and while you may not be able to solve the problem at hand, just giving your child a chance to be heard is sometimes enough to alleviate anxiety.
Children are not always comfortable talking about their feelings or inner problems. This is not necessarily a bad thing—you can still reassure your child that you’ll be available to listen and or talk when he or she is ready. In general, because some children are not fond of talking about their feelings, they sometimes rely on the company of others to take their mind off things. To help your child manage stress, let your child know that you’re available to spend time together for fun activities, such as going to the park, riding bikes, or watching a movie.
Allow your child to talk without interruption. Don’t lead the conversation and try to resist the urge to solve the problem. Although a proposed solution can be helpful, the focus shouldn’t be to micro-manage a course of action—instead, you should teach your child how to be a problem-solver.
Mobile Apps for Stress Management
While mobile phones are often viewed as an addictive device worthy of digital detox, there are some free mobile apps that can help your child and the whole family manage stress:
- Schedule Planner—Allows users to plan daily tasks and assign a priority level
- Hub Family Organizer—Keeps your family organized by allowing users to share calendars, to-do lists, and other chores/tasks
- The Homework App—Provides students with a way to track and complete homework assignments
There are also several books that equip parents with tools to help their children cope with stress. For more information, check out:
- The Power of Your Child’s Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success by Charlotte Reznick
- The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child by Fran Walfish
- Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, The Heart of Parenting by John Gottman, Ph.D.