We hear a lot about stress today, both for adults and for children. Some children seem to be very stressed, and certainly stress can have negative consequences on our physical and emotional health. So how do we teach our children to handle stress? Again, I want to paraphrase Dr. Tim Elmore, noted researcher and writer on family emotional issues. He lists six ways to help our children.
1. Limit the number of activities in which they are involved. Notice I said "limit" not "eliminate". Extracurricular activities are good, just not when they take over our lives.
2. Be sure to eat and sleep well. This is something we all know, but for some reason make an "exception" to it every day. A daily exception is not an exception at all; it's the norm. Having the parental self-discipline to set a good bedtime regimen is one of the quickest and most obvious ways we can help our children.
3. Teach children that stress is neutral. It's not necessarily positive or negative, but our reaction to it can be either. Children (and their parents) need to learn how to manage stress, because it's inevitable part of life. For example, when we lift weights we stress the muscles and they respond by strengthening. In contrast, we can tear those muscles and cause long term damage. In the same way managed stress in our emotional life can be positive or negative depending upon how extreme it is and our response to it.
4. Condition them to do difficult tasks and learn resilience. As early as possible, challenge children to do hard things. When they tackle things which make them struggle, they grow from it. Learning this concept early in life will help them throughout the rest of their life.
5. Enable them to locate their strengths and work in those areas. For all of us, our stress level goes down when we operate in our sweet spot. Often we can use a strength to overcome a weakness.
6. Tell them stories of people who learned to work with stress. They love to hear stories, either from your past, a relative's past, or from some friend. They learn by stories and will remember the concept longer.
None of these are difficult, and most of them are relatively intuitive. I would bet that most of our families already do almost all of these things. I raise them just in case one or more are helpful for you.
In His Service,