Stress and anxiety – how to help your child adapt to life changes
written by Ineke
Stress and anxiety are familiar feelings to everyone, regardless of age. While adults and children express their fears and concerns in different ways, there are a few tips and tricks that anyone can use to get themselves back in control of their emotions.
Whether the anxiety has come from a new experience, like going to school for the first time, or simply dealing with big feelings like anger, it’s helpful to have a few tools to deal with anxious situations. Being aware of what makes us anxious and stressed is vital when identifying what tools we can use to control ourselves, even when we can’t control the situation that’s causing the anxious feelings.
So what’s the difference between anxious children and adults? Well, children may display extreme reactions to events and situations that may not feel normal to us as parents. Adults, on the other hand, tend to be aware of their extreme emotions and are better at identifying their problems to others who care about them.
Being aware of what makes us anxious and stressed is vital when identifying what tools we can use to control ourselves
Regardless of how we show our anxiety, it is important to remember that it’s a normal part of life – ‘a natural part of a child’s development includes distinct periods of anxious behavior.’ – comprehendthemind . We should all be normalising anxiety and stressful feelings – in other words, encouraging children (and adults!) to speak out about how they feel.
How do we normalise these feelings? Sharing experiences with others is probably the quickest and easiest way. Dr. Kaylene Henderson recommends reading books that deal with overcoming adversity and discuss feelings and emotions with your child. Acknowledging that big feelings happen is an important step in dealing with the changing world around them.
Ways to deal with stress and anxiety
There are many different ways to deal with stressful, anxious situations – here are just some of the techniques as recommended by noted parenting specialist, Maggie Dent:
- Make children aware that they are in charge of their feelings. The choice is up to them as to how they react to a situation. This is not an easy thing to learn, and is difficult to learn even as an adult!
- Once there is awareness, various tools can be applied. Try a guided meditation – these are readily available on the web. Parents.com recommends several free apps, and a quick YouTube search also turns up suitable options for all ages.
- Stop everything and just breathe. Simply concentrating solely on your breathing will help re-centre your thoughts, slow down your heart rate, and generally make everything feel a little more manageable. For children, try sitting in a quiet corner and placing their hands on their tummy so they can feel the breathing.
What about change and new situations?
Again, encouraging children to accept that change can be scary and big feelings will happen is important. However, it is harder to deal with them when your child is experiencing something new – like starting school, for example.
This is where an early learning centre that follows the nationally recognised curriculum can be helpful. Trying out a school-like environment, without having to commit to it every day is always a bonus. Controlling a new situation using various methods is a great way to manage big emotions when it comes to change in life.
Change Management – the best way to manage negative reactions to stress
Ask yourself the following questions:
Are they socially competent?
Can they communicate?
Are they healthy?
Are they independent?
The more independent and stronger they are at communicating, the better children will adapt to changes. Making children independent can be difficult – so start with simple things such as encouraging them to go to the toilet unassisted at home, pick up their toys and put them away with minimal supervision, put their plate in the sink when they’ve finished eating, and so on. All these little skills add up to big social and physical development achievements.
Finally, remember that as a parent:
‘you are still their number one teacher – and coach.’ – Maggie Dent
Maggie Dent has been writing books about parenting, for parents, since 2003. For more information on raising children, visit Maggie Dent, and use the side selection area to find your common parenting concern topic.
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