Life is busy, messy, intense and stress happens. So, it’s good to get a plan for staying calm and carrying on. But our kids feel plenty of stress too, and they need to know how to calm themselves when their mind starts racing, or they’re feeling anxious thoughts. Whether it’s the stress a two year old feels when presented with the red cereal bowl instead of blue, or the anxiety an eight year old feels before the big test, stress is a very real set of emotions and body reactions, in kids and adults. It’s important we teach kids how to identify and manage age-appropriate stress when they’re young, so they build good habits for managing stress later in life.
Here are some things we can do with our kids to help them get their minds of their worries:
Drawing– During stress the mind starts to hyper focus on the stress itself or some activity or fear around the stress. Doing art of any kind has many benefits but drawing is especially helpful because it is directed and purposeful. Drawing requires the mind and body to focus on hand-eye control, visualizing an intended outcome and creating the images. That focus on creating something new takes the focus away from anxiety producing thoughts and restores a sense of control that can lead to calm.
Journaling- During stressful times it can be hard to name the feelings we’re having, or what’s causing them. Journaling is a great way to help figure it out, without trying to figure it out. Encourage your kids to just write what happened, or what they saw. No judgment or interpretation. Writing it out can lessen the emotional charge and bring clarity to the event. It’s also a safe place to dump any and all the feelings, that need a safe place to land. Daily journal writing is a great habit that can bring a lifetime of emotional release.
Mindfulness and Meditation– There’s a lot of research demonstrating the calming effect mindfulness exercises have on kids. During stress or trauma, our mind protects us by pulling our attention away from our bodies or the present situation. Mindfulness exercises help us connect to our bodies and lessen the effects of anxious thoughts. Practice mindfulness during non-stress times, to gain experience. Start by practicing the process of ‘grounding’. Have your child start by looking around and finding 5 things he can see, 4 things he can touch, 3 things he can hear, 2 things he can smell, and 1 thing he can taste.
Yoga-Yoga is synonymous with peace of mind, relaxation, and stress reduction. It’s another great way to keep kids connected and grounded in their bodies. When kids practice yoga, they transfer their focus and attention into their body and breath. Learning to stretch and breathe deeply can temper anxiety, while releasing physical tension that often accompanies it. There are many levels of yoga practice and mastery for adults, but let’s keep it simple and kid-focused. Choose a couple of basic poses and breathing exercises to master together.
Go Outside-Sometimes alleviating stress can be as simple as going outside. It’s amazing how much fresh air and a change of scenery can do. Being outside with the sun shining on our faces helps our bodies make Vitamin D which helps with mood stabilization. Add some play and physical activity and get the whole body some much needed relief. The good news is any of these first four tips can also be done outside to fill two needs with one deed.
All of these tips aim to re-focus anxious thoughts into something healthy and productive instead. To have the maximum effect, kids need to practice these things when they are not stressed so when the anxious thoughts come, they have confidence in how to use them to achieve calm.
Do you have some other tips that might help our readers keep calm? Let me know in the comments.
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