Helping Children Manage Stress

October 12, 2020

Written by Diana R. Rice, PhD

Diana is writing as the Board President of Neighborhood North as well as a Professor of Psychology at Geneva College.

Helping Kids Manage Stress

You may have seen some signs of stress in the children in your life recently, especially with the uncertainties and changes surrounding this year’s back-to-school transitions. Your child may be able to tell you exactly what they’re concerned about, or they may be quieter about their struggles. In either case, it’s important to have some tools to help support them.

One key to helping your child manage stress is to help them learn problem-solving. The goal isn’t really to smooth away all difficulties for them, but instead to have them plan how to deal with the stressors they’re facing. It may help to talk through what they will be facing in the day or week ahead. This can help develop a strategy of how to handle their schoolwork or situations with friends.

Sometimes stress comes not from uncertainty but from worry about making mistakes. Helping kids understand that making mistakes is part of the process of learning can be helpful. Your kids aren’t supposed to know how to do everything correctly the first or even second time. Giving them the skills to understand that recovering from mistakes well might help eliminate some of the fear that can come with perfectionism.

One other strategy that can help your children manage stress is to encourage them to play - without keeping score or learning a bigger lesson. That kind of free play, especially when combined with physical activity, can help them recover from stress. It’s important to allow kids time to be kids, without schedule and commitment.

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