Managing stress for your kids at home.
A WebMD survey in 2015 found that 72% of children exhibit negative behaviors linked to stress and 62% exhibit physical symptoms linked to stress. Most cases were mild at the time but it’s quite possible, given the unusual situation we’re in these days, that your child is feeling stress more seriously now!
Now is a great time to teach your kids how to cope with stress in a positive and productive way. Our pediatric and adolescent dental team wants to help! Read on for our top 10 stress-relieving coping strategies for kids that you can implement at home today.
5 Coping Strategies for Kids Under 13
To make this guide easier to follow, we’ve decided to break it up into age-specific categories. After all, what works for your little kiddos may not work so well for your growing teenagers! Read on for 5 coping skills for kids under the age of 13.
1. Positive Playtime
Playtime is more powerful than we may think. Not only does it give children a break from their responsibilities but it gets them moving and even allows them to role play and use their imaginations. Sometimes, role playing can actually help them to step outside of their own feelings and examine them from a healthy distance.
2. Arts and Crafts
Arts and crafts are a great way to engage both children’s minds and their hands. This process is soothing and a lot of arts and crafts projects are geared specifically towards stress relief.
For example, try making a stress ball out of some balloons and a few cups of sandbox sand. Using a funnel, fill each balloon with enough sand so it fits in the palm of your child’s hand but is dense enough to squeeze. Tensing and releasing our hands actually signals to the brain that we should try to calm down, and the stress ball will help your child to learn that habit!
3. Positive Meal Times
Meal times should serve several positive purposes for your child—a meaningful time to connect with family, a break for their brain, and a time to fill their tummies with healthy, colorful, nutrient-rich foods. It’s also a chance to apply some structure to your day and to transition from play time to quiet time, for instance. Turn off the TV and put away the phones, serve plenty of fruits and vegetables, and engage in meaningful conversations, even with very young children.
Bibliotherapy is the process of reading for anxiety relief. For younger kids, building storytime into your daily routine can have a therapeutic effect.
During the day, try books like “Ruby’s Worry” by Tom Percival that directly confront feelings of anxiety. Before bed, aim for happier or calmer books to keep your child’s worries from sparking up as they’re trying to fall asleep!
5. Mental Breaks
If your kids are schooling at home, they will need mental breaks to keep them feeling refreshed and keep their stress levels low. Right now they are missing their normal social interactions and spending a great deal of time in front of a screen in order to keep up with their lessons!
Try picking up to three songs per day that your kids love to dance to. Every hour (adjusted as needed for your child’s age), put on the short playlist and get dancing! This will help keep the stress at bay while they try to finish their schoolwork.
5 Coping Strategies for Teens
What do your older kids need? Teens can use coping strategies that are more self-directed and reflective. They may prefer a bit more privacy and, as long as you give them some positive coping strategies to work with, this is perfectly fine!
1. Guided Visualization
There are tons of free resources, from apps to YouTube videos, that your teen can use to practice guided visualization.
Guided visualization is a relaxation technique that is beginner-friendly for anyone who isn’t experienced with meditation. A combination of calming visualization suggestions and soothing sounds allows the mind to clear out negative thoughts and create a safe, happy space.
Some teens may be past the days of playtime but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t exercise! Exercising is a great way to let off steam and release endorphins in the face of high stress.
The great thing about exercise is that it can be done without breaking the rules of social distancing! Encourage your teens to exercise in the basement or backyard. Alternatively, head outdoors with them for long walks or quick jogs so that you can ensure that they’re safely crossing the street and maintaining proper distance from fellow exercisers.
Younger kids may not be ready for journaling, but teens most certainly are! Journals are a great way to release or confront difficult feelings without shame or embarrassment.
Encourage your teen to write in their journal at least once a day for 20 minutes. Remind them that their journal is for any thought, feeling, or memory they wish to fill it with—both the stressful and the positive!
4. Sustained Silent Reading
Once again, we can’t stress enough the power of books as therapy. Although libraries and bookstores are currently closed, most libraries have a ton of ebooks to choose from that can be downloaded onto an e-reader, tablet, or even smartphone.
Encourage 30 minutes to an hour of sustained silent reading. This will help cut into your teen’s screen time, which has probably seen a sharp increase since schooling went online! (If you’re relying on ebooks, look at the device’s settings and lower the backlight as much as possible so it isn’t as harsh on the eyes.)
5. Practice a Hobby
Hobbies are great fun, great stress-relief, and incredibly rewarding. They also take some of the doldrums out of a day stuck inside!
Perhaps your teen has an instrument lying around that they’ve been meaning to learn or a paint set they haven’t touched since the holidays. Hobbies that encourage creativity are great right now as they can help your teen to release some of their negative emotions in a healthy way.
Keep Things Positive
The most important thing to remember about using coping strategies for kids is to keep the door open for discussions about stress without dwelling too much on the negative. Make it clear that you’re there and you want to help, but find ways to bring them back to positive thinking whenever possible!
Over at Brocks Gap Dental Group, we’re doing our best to stay positive, too! Although we’ve had to adjust our hours and regular services, we are still available for all dental emergencies. If you need emergency dental treatment, visit our contact page and call the office phone number.