In recent years, stress in young children has hit record highs. Although certain cases of stress can be attributed to new technology and excessive peer pressure, parents’ behavior is often a huge contributor. Fortunately, parental awareness is the first step in doing away with stress-inducing behaviors. Every child is going to experience some degree of stress when growing up, but if you suspect any of your children are trapped in the throes of chronic stress, it behooves you to take stock of your actions and work toward changing any behaviors that are contributing to their condition.
Avoid Projecting Your Stress Onto Your Kids
When working to minimize stress in your children’s lives, it’s imperative that you abstain from projecting your own stress onto them. Although few parents willfully engage in this practice, a fair number of them are guilty of it. In the interest of avoiding projection, make an effort to avoid complaining about job responsibilities, at-home obligations and other sources of stress in front of your kids. Being around a noticeably stressed individual can often make people in their orbit feel stressed — and this is doubly true in the case of children, who frequently internalize their parents’ emotions.
Of course, this isn’t to say that you should keep your stress bottled up and allow it to fester. Instead, you should find healthy outlets for releasing it, such as exercise, hobbies, personal time or talking your problems out with another adult. Taking part in charitable activities, like short-term mission trips abroad, can also help keep one’s stress levels in check. Managing your own stress can have a positive impact on both your life and the lives your children, so if your stress levels have gotten out of hand, you owe it to yourself — and them — to get on top of the problem.
Avoid Arguing in Front of Your Children
Feuding parents are among the foremost contributors of childhood stress, and frankly, there’s little wonder as to why. Children should associate their homes with peace and stability, but when their parents are constantly arguing, many kids actively dread spending time at home. If your child is unable to feel secure in their own home, stress is sure to follow. With this in mind, you and your partner should avoid arguing in front of your children or in areas where your kids can plainly hear you. Marital troubles are best addressed when kids aren’t around, and if these problems prove to be persistent, the guidance of a professional marriage counselor should be sought.
Avoid Over-scheduling Your Kids
Over-scheduling is another common stress trigger for children. If your kids are pursuing multiple extracurricular activities in addition to attending school, their stress levels may be running high. While there’s nothing wrong with having many different passions, having downtime can be equally important. In addition to limiting the number of extracurriculars you allow your children to pursue at a given time, make sure that they have a daily period in which they can decompress. It’s fine to keep busy, but never giving oneself a break is practically guaranteed to result in burn-out.
Make Sure Your Kids Are Well-rested
Lack of sleep can lead to heightened stress levels in both adults and children. Being consistently well-rested is essential to healthy brain function, and failing to get the proper amount of sleep can make kids feel cranky, depressed and stressed. To ensure that your children are well-rested for the day ahead, make sure they get between eight and 10 hours of sleep each night. Although you’re liable to get some pushback for enforcing bedtimes, this will ultimately prove highly beneficial to your little ones. You can also promote good sleep hygiene by banning the use of televisions, tablets and smart phones once bedtime is in effect.
Everyone faces some degree of stress in their lives. Whether this stress stems from career expectations, family obligations or general anxiety, finding ways to minimize or get rid of it entirely can dramatically improve one’s quality of life. Although stress is typically viewed as an issue that affects adults, it’s a problem that even young children are forced to contend with. Since chronic stress can adversely impact a child’s development, happiness and overall outlook, every parent should take active measures to eliminate it.