We keep hearing more and more that our children are experiencing stress and anxiety more than ever. Maybe you’ve observed this yourself. Watching our children suffer is extremely difficult and often leaves us feeling helpless. So how can we help our children how not to be stressed?
There are a variety of causes but I won’t get into those. This post will share 3 ways to help your child overcome stress and anxiety. These methods aren’t just applicable to children but can be used by people of every age.
No matter what the situation, it is always possible to look at it from another perspective.
Usually when we’re feeling stressed or anxious we are worrying about everything that could go wrong. Practice the act of worrying about everything that could go right.
You don’t know what’s ultimately going to happen. Working yourself up negatively doesn’t serve any purpose. Yet, it is the habit most of us have developed. It is the habit most of us are attached to. We are comfortable thinking of the negative.
It’s also the habit our children are picking up on. Too bad it’s the habit that makes us feel the worst. Makes us feel the most stressed.
When you re-frame, play around with the thoughts and discussion points of your situation. The goal isn’t to go from feeling miserable to feeling great within 2 minutes of conversation. The goal is to feel slightly better…you are looking for a feeling of relief.
Example: Your child is anxious about moving to a new school. She is upset that she is losing her friends and worried she won’t have any friends at her new school. You are worried that she is too shy to make friends quickly. You are concerned about her being lonely and isolated.
Stressful self-talk & worry: What if I don’t make any new friends? What if the other kids are mean to me? My friends here will forget about me.
Re-frame: I have some great friends. I talk to them often in the evenings. That can continue once I get to my new school. Even though I’m shy, I’ve managed to make some great friends. I feel accepted by them and I can trust them. Maybe the kids at my new school will be accepting like them. Maybe I’ll be able to keep my current friends and make a couple of new ones. Maybe there will be another girl in my class that loves baseball like me.
Your child may not make friends and feel alone. But it’s possible that she could make a couple of really great new friends. If both outcomes are possible, then why would you ever want to focus on the one that makes your child feel stressed and anxious?
Help them to see that there are other possibilities and not just their worst case scenario.
2) Focus on what you can control.
You may not be able to control what’s happening. Your child may not feel in control of the situation. That “out of control” feeling is often the number one cause of anxiety and stress.
Shift your child’s focus (and possibly your own) to something that they can control. Empowering them can go a long way to reducing those tense and unpleasant feelings.
Your child may have to change schools because you are moving or the school boundaries may be changing. Either way, she is probably feeling like she has little say in the matter. It’s out of her control.
Help her to know that she can talk about her feelings with her friends. Maybe her friends are upset that she will be leaving them. Together, they can develop a plan to keep in touch. They can promise to continue their evening talks or get together on a weekly basis or join the same baseball team in the spring.
If she continues to be worried about making new friends (and you’re not moving far) maybe there’s an art class she’s interested in or a sports team that she can start right now. She could then begin making some new friends. And if the class/team continues through the move then she can have those new friends as a constant throughout the change.
At the very least, she’ll have additional practice making new friends and have some fun learning something she enjoys.
3) Lead by Example
Probably the most critical step. If your child sees you upset, stressed, worried, and anxiety-ridden then chances are she’s going to model her behaviour after you. Especially if this is what she’s observed from a young age.
If you are concerned that she’s not going to adapt well to her new situation then don’t ever express those feelings around her.
Even if you’re upset that she has to change schools your job is to remain positive and optimistic in front of her. Don’t dump your feelings on her. Don’t put that added pressure on her. If you need to talk about it then talk with someone else in another location where your child cannot hear.
Use methods 1 and 2 to re-frame and to feel some level of control over the situation BEFORE talking to your child about it. You can’t help your child if your mind is only spinning into the worst case scenario.
You can’t help your child if you are experiencing the same levels of stress and anxiety as they are.
Practice on smaller, less significant problems. Develop the habit of re-framing and shifting your focus to what you can control.
Over time your child will pick up on your habits and even if they don’t, you will be in a much better frame of mind to help them get through their moments of panic.
You will be amazed what a subtle difference in thinking can do to your feelings and theirs.