Adapting to Stress – Strategies for families and children

by Nov 20, 2013Children's Health

In my practice, I am very fortunate to meet many families. In recent years, it has been more common for parents to report that they believe their young children are ‘stressed’ or ‘anxious’. This would make sense, as we know workplaces have become more stressful. Canadian statistics highlight males and females aged 35 to 54 were more likely than Canadians overall to report high levels of stress. These are the ages at which people are most likely to be managing the multiple roles associated with career and family responsibilities. So if moms and dads are stressed, how would we expect our children not to feel the effects?

The best advice I can give parents is to openly communicate with their children about their concerns. In addition here are some techniques that can help your child learn to cope with anxiety/stress symptoms:

  1. Reassure your child that everything is going to be ok. Teach your child to repeat a statement to help him/her stay calm. Use statements such as “Remember to breathe and relax”, “Hold my hand and breathe slowly.’’
  2. When anxiety symptoms arise, talk to your child and ask them what is wrong and why they feel the way they do.
  3. Teach your child how to do Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Begin with the feet and move upwards in the body contracting and relaxing different muscle groups.
  4. Ask your child to describe where in their body they feel anxiety – chest, stomach. Then instruct them to see that area and allow the stress there to melt away.
  5. Remind your child of their favourite place or activity and get them to focus on this. Get them to visualize their favourite place and see themselves there or doing their favourite activity. Allow them to describe this place or activity to you. Encourage your child to close their eyes.
  6. Have a child keep a small object that reminds them to calm down – a rock, cross, etc. This can accompany them to sleep and school.
  7. Limit sugar intake in the diet, especially in the evenings! Dilute fruit juices with water and look at all packaged food for hidden sugars.
  8. If concerned about proper nutrition, consider a children’s multivitamin formula or talk to your ND about improving nutrition.
  9. Try Chamomile or peppermint tea which can help induce a calmer state.
  10. Stick to routine. Kids love routine! Have your child follow the same routine during the week with some changes on the weekend permissible. As best as possible, stick to similar hours for eating and sleeping.
  11. Limit video games and TV watching. Avoid news or horror movies.
  12. Have a family meeting and discuss any stressors that may be present in your daily routine. Limit any potential stressors.
  13. Adopt a ‘we are in this together’ attitude and reassure your child that you will do whatever is necessary to help them.
  14. Parents, avoid having conflicts around children.
  15. Increase physical activities! Allow your child to join group sports which can help to release nervous tension.
  16. Try homeopathic and natural remedies which may be appropriate for your child. Rescue remedy can be added to water whenever needed.
  17. Consider working with a Registered Massage Therapist who focuses on pediatric care.

The above strategies can help parents better understand their children and their individual needs. If anxiety symptoms persist or worsen in severity, draw upon many support networks. Talk to family members to see if anxiety is present in other relatives and then share this with your healthcare providers. Talk to other parents and share your ideas and experiences. If no improvement is seen, consider consulting a child psychologist or psychotherapist in your area. Your Naturopathic Doctor is also a great resource when looking for implementing natural strategies to address stress and anxiety.

And lastly, let’s be the role model for our children. Seek a balanced lifestyle and encourage healthy activities. Be your best self in mind, body and soul.

Written by Dr. Odessa Gill, ND

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