Helping Your Children Cope With Stress

Raising children has never been easy, but some parents think it’s even harder today. They have always had to deal with providing – food, clothing and shelter as well as a supportive and loving environment where their offspring can grow to their full potential. Today, in addition, mom and dad are faced with handling the stresses of an unstable economy and volatile social situations. And youngsters often feel the worries we feel as well.

A recent study, conducted by Harris Interactive, and reported by the American Psychological Association, found that 75% of American adults are experiencing moderate to high levels of stress. For the first time, youth between the ages of 8 and 17 were included in the survey, and APA found that these preteens and teenagers are worrying too – and in greater numbers than their parents estimate. The survey found that children are experiencing their greatest worries about school and their family’s finances.

So what can you do to make it easier for your kids? Here are 7 tips to help you get started.

1. Don’t try to hide your concerns from your children – you really can’t anyway. They pick up signals from you even when you think you’re protecting them. At the same time, don’t burden them with pressures beyond their years and abilities to handle them.

2. As you all come face to face with your fears, keep the lines of communication open. Talk with your kids about their worries and let them know how you are handling yours. The more you are able to discuss the strains affecting all of you, the better you can all begin to cope with them.

3. When you begin to take action about the pressures, your children will feel comforted. Let them know you are capable of working together as a family to decrease the tensions you face. You may not be able to eliminate the anxiety everyone is experiencing, but you can make efforts to reduce it.

4. Help your children come up with a specific plan to address their concerns. Model for them how to create a strategy with a long-term goal and attainable short-term objectives to accomplish along the way. Remind them to create a Plan B to use when unavoidable obstacles arise.

5. Schedule stress reducing activities for your children and yourself. Physical activities will help decrease the levels of anxiety and depression you all may be experiencing. And even young children can be taught deep breathing exercises that bring about a greater sense of relaxation.

6. Work on having a more positive outlook. Think about what good can come out of the situation – maybe a greater degree of family solidarity and closeness. Encourage your children to be aware of and develop their internal strengths. And direct your focus to the light at the end of the tunnel.

7. Pay attention to unhealthy behaviors your kids may be exhibiting. If their actions involve excessive acting out, frequent conflicts, avoidant activities or the use of drugs or alcohol, they may be depressed. If these dysfunctional behaviors continue, consult a professional counselor trained to work with children.

If you are a Sandwiched Boomer, stressed by the poor economy as well as your family in flux, you may feel torn between the responsibilities of caring for your children and aging parents at the same time. Yet you’ll find that, when you let your children know you are there for them with support and encouragement, the entire family benefits. When you help your kids with their stress levels, yours will settle down too – so it’s a win-win for everyone.

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