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Story

The Parents' Guide To De-stressing Your Children

11/10/2009

The Parents' Guide To De-stressing Your Children

 

Here are some of my strategies to try

 

The stress levels of parents undoubtedly surged when they heard of the recent Cambridge University research into how stressed the country's children are. Not only are children worried about schoolwork and examinations but they worry about what's going on in this volatile world.

 

This state of affairs leaves the average, good-intentioned parent despairing of what they can do to help their child de-stress. There are many things to put into action and here are the key things to try:

 

Start Their Day As You Mean Them To Go On!

Remember if mornings in your household are chaotic than not only do you feel stressed but your children also leave the house feeling stressed. Take practical measures to ensure mornings are calm.

 

Set your alarm 10 minutes earlier. Lay out your clothes and your younger child's clothes the evening before (ask older children to do this themselves). Make sure school forms are signed the night before, etc. Leaving your house in a relaxed manner will help your child face the stresses of the day.

 

It's Not All About School!
It's tempting when your child gets home after-school to ask them questions like what they did at school and what’s their homework for the evening. Not only have they been at school for six to seven hours already but this means your entire focus is on school.

 

Yes, it's important to find out what schoolwork your child has to do but first ask them about them! Not in reference to what they did during the school day but instead you could ask them if they saw their best friend, how energetic they're feeling, if there something in particular they want to do, etc.

 

Don't Make Communication Like A Grilling!
Some parents fire 50 questions at a child when they fear something’s wrong thinking these form the basis of good communication. Instead they feel as if an interview panel’s picking them apart!

Rather than firing a load of questions simply relax with them for a time. Ask opened-ended questions like, "what's on your mind?" Then give them time to answer and resist jumping in with what you think the matter is.

 

With a younger child this works particularly well when sitting side-by-side with them doing something like drawing. As they’re painting or colouring they start to relax and in a matter-of-fact way you can ask what’s on their mind.

 

Keeping Them In The Dark Can Be A Blessing!
It's particularly important not to drone on about upcoming exams. Mark any exams in your diary so you know when they're approaching. Make sure your child’s well rested at this time and focused on life generally, rather than exams specifically. Take a matter-of-fact approach if they've heard about the upcoming exams from friends. The less of a big deal you make of it, the less of a big deal they’ll make of it - probably doing better! 

 

Panic Spreads Like Wildfire!

Never forget how your own stress levels impact on your child. If you've got a major deadline looming or project to complete be aware how you speak about this at home.

 

There’s a direct relationship between how children handle stress and how their parents do. By demonstrating to them that you can cope with your own stresses and strains they'll learn that life is manageable and not to be panicked about.

 

Happiness Before Homework!
It's important that your child does their homework to the best of their ability. But they’ll be far more likely to do it if they’ve had some “happy time” when they get home rather than being told to get straight to their books.

 

The best way to encourage a carefree feeling is to have them run about in the local park or garden if you have one. If the weather's bad or there's not enough time to go to the park, encourage them to do a hobby they enjoy.

 

Television And Computers Should Be A Reward!
Treat television and playing games on their computer as a reward rather than a “given”. You can get your child into a de-stressed routine by allowing them some “happy time” after school, then they get on to their homework, and after that they get TV or computer time as a reward.

 

Pay attention to the TV and/or computer games they're playing on. They will only get more stressed if they're playing fast-paced, highly competitive and violent games.

 

Essentials Of De-Stressing!
Don't underestimate the importance of diet and the amount they sleep in keeping them de-stressed. It's far preferable to give good, basic home-cooked food rather than ready-made meals. Those can be full of sugars, fats, flavourings and colourings that hype your child up.

 

When it comes to their sleep routine even an older child needs some boundaries. One slightly naughty parenting trick that worked with my own children was telling them their bedtime was a half-an-hour before I really expected it to be. We’d then "negotiate" a new time of 20 to 30 minutes later. They thought they were more grown-up having a later bedtime but it still fell within the time I felt was suitable. Obviously this won't work with older children but within reason they should help to find their own bedtime.

 

Finally, everyone gets stressed occasionally. Show your child it's important not to beat yourself up during such times. You just get on and do the best you can!

 

Published in The Express Newspaper