Stressed-Out Kids: Learning to Deal with Life's Ups and Downs
In This Article:
Adjust for Individual Differences
How we cope with stress varies with our temperament and our type. The introverts in your family are going to need more space and quiet time. The extroverts are going to want to talk things out. Recognize your differences. For the introverts, eliminate as many outside commitments as you can. Extroverts, give yourself permission to use the phone and talk with others. Be careful not to wear out your introverted family members.
And if you or your child are temperamentally more intense, know that daily exercise will be even more important to you. If you're more sensitive, sensorial stimulation, especially noise, will make you edgier. And if you're slow to adapt, know, too, that transitions become more challenging. Slow down, allow more time, and you'll ease through this challenging period.
Learning to deal with life's ups and downs isn't easy and takes time. I your child is dealing with a significant issue, there won't be a quick fix It may be a tough six months or year before you see progress, and you may need to seek professional help in the process. And because kids are developing, they often have to revisit a major stressful event at each new developmental milestone. That means that if your child was six when you divorced, when she reaches preadolescence, she may very well have to process her feelings about it all over again at a higher level of thinking.
Don't lose hope. Know as you work through those stressful events that the research on resiliency demonstrates that kids who have experienced tough times are actually stronger adults. They've learned that no matter what happens, they can handle it! Mary Tyler Moore says it well "You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you."
Savor Your Successes
Hannah was seven. Her parents had divorced when she was two. She lived with her mother but spent weekends with her dad. Typically where Hannah returned to her mother's on Sunday night, she was distraught She was hungry and tired. Inevitably, her mother ended up spending the whole evening just trying to stop the screaming and crying.
Learning about stress behaviors gave Mom a whole new perspective. Suddenly she realized that the transfer from one parent to another after a visitation was a very stressful event for Hannah. She used her new awareness to turn this exhausting experience into one that was reasonably manageable.
Talking with Hannah, she helped her understand her emotion saying, "When you've been with your daddy, it's hard for you to leave him. You love him. But you love me, too. When you can't be with both of us at the same time, it's frustrating and sad to you. All those feel are inside of you when you come home."
Mom also realized it was critical that she reinforce her standard; she said, "When you come home, no matter how upset you are, it's all right for you to call Mommy names or to scream for hours."
Then together they talked about what Hannah could do with al those emotions. They planned a hot bubble bath for her, along with an immediate snack. Hannah could expect that her mom would sit with her while she lounged in her bath so they could talk. Finally they clarified what else they might do that night or who might be coming over. Hannah knew exactly what to expect. All attention was focused helping her to cope with that difficult transition, and, most important, she knew she could count on her mother to be there when she needed her the most. Hannah was learning that even when there are things our life that we don't like and that we wish we could change, we can still find ways to cope.
Kids don't tell us that they're stressed. Instead they throw us their most challenging behaviors. Our job is teach them how to cope with life's ups and downs even when we're stressed, too.
When your child is stressed:
- Teach your child to recognize stress behaviors.
- Talk about the emotions she's experiencing such as worry, sadness, disappointment, exhaustion, grief.
- Understand her indecisiveness and forgetfulness; offer extra support.
- Nurture her more. She really does need to be held, massaged, or carried.
- Maintain routines and let her know what to expect. Create rituals that connect you.
- Recognize your stress.
- Allow yourself to slow down and ask for help.
- Understand you need more nurturing, too.
- Take time to exercise.
More on: Behavior and Discipline
From the book KIDS, PARENTS, AND POWER STRUGGLES: Winning for a Lifetime by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2000 by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. All rights reserved.
Buy the book at www.harpercollins.com.