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Summer is fast approaching and that means a change in many family routines.  As with any change, this one can lead to some stress for children as well as their parents.  So I thought this would be a good time to talk a bit about stress and children – a kind of “primer” for parents on what to look for, when to act, and what to do to help children learn to manage stress well.  Learning how to identify and manage emotions is a valuable and important social-emotional skill. This is one of those skills your children start to master NOW and reap the benefits for a lifetime.

Impact on physical/mental health

Stress can cause wear and tear and have cumulative effects on kids and adults alike. Unchecked stress builds up and can cause fatigue, lethargy, anxiety, irritability, sleeplessness, tearfulness, anger and depression.  We want to teach children to recognize and deal with stress before it escalates into behavioral or emotional issues. So, how should you as a parent help your child develop the kind of positive stress management skills that will lead to a happy, well-adjusted life? 

Learning to Recognize Stress

The first step to dealing with stress effectively is learning WHAT it is and recognizing WHEN it occurs.  What is stress? It is your body’s response to an event our thought that causes physical or mental tension. It is that tightness in the belly; the sweaty palms; the feeling of dread.  Recognizing the early signs of stress or anxiety can help prevent escalations or meltdowns.  How does a child feel when stressed? These are some physical signs of stress you or your child might notice:

  1. Sweating
  2. Red face
  3. Body aches or pains
  4. Tense, tight muscles
  5. Increased heart rate
  6. Eyes watering
  7. Upset stomach
  8. Poor sleep habits
  9. Hyperactivity
  10. Fidgeting
  11. Headache
  12. Exhaustion
  13. Shallow breathing
  14. Loss of appetite
  15. Increase in appetite
  16. Inability to concentrate
Once you have learned how to identify stress, what do you DO about it? Grab our free guide to Teaching Kids about Stress.  You might also want to check out some of these other terrific resources: 

Kids Relaxation: A whole site devoted to providing you with oodles of activities aimed at calming your kiddies

Wilma Jean the Worry Machine: My favorite book for anxious little worry-warts.

Mandalas: Coloring mandalas is a time-tested method for calming the body and the mind.  Print out some of these designed for children and give it a try for yourself.

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