Stressed-Out Kids: Learning to Deal with Life's Ups and Downs
In This Article:
Letting Go of "Lovies"
Kids reach a certain age and adults decide it's time for them to be finished with bottles, pacifiers, nursing, and even favorite blankets. The key to letting go of "levies" is to work with your child to help him find another way to soothe and calm himself. Without a substitute, he's left without his favorite soother, and the stress levels can rise quickly. So when you wean your child, don't stop holding and rocking him. If you take away the pacifier, offer him oral alternatives like a straw with his drink. If you toilet train him, cuddle him after he uses the potty and tickle his toes at bathtime. When your child is too big to be held on your lap, sit on the edge other bed and scratch her back.
Invasive Medical Practices
Doctors are sworn to help their patients, but sometimes the tools and techniques they use are frightening and painful. For a young child, being held down and hurt by a trusted adult even if it's to save her life can be a traumatic experience. Be aware that if your child has experienced major medical interventions she may be stressed and need more support from you.
Leaving one parent to return to another is a very challenging experience for kids. The rules change from one house to another, and separation means letting go. It's important to recognize that when your child returns from a visit, if she's acting out, beneath her anger may be stress.
Bullies are a major source of stress for kids. While it is common to tell kids to stand up for themselves or to ignore the bullying, the latest research on bullies demonstrates that adults must step in! It's adults who must clearly enforce the standards that everyone will be treated respectfully and that bullying will not be tolerated. A child alone cannot stop a bully.
Young Siblings Starting to Walk and Talk
Your child may have been infatuated with her sibling when he was baby, but once that baby starts to move and talk, it's another story. Suddenly the older child finds her space invaded. It can be a very frustrating and irritating experience. Tempers may flare.
Once again, my list is not comprehensive, but I hope it gives you the idea that kids, even infants and toddlers, experience stress. You may also realize that many of the events that stress kids also stress you, leaving all of you more vulnerable. Each event taken alone may be manageable but stacked together (the vacation and the birthday party), they mi overwhelm all of you. When you recognize events that are potentially stressful to your kids and to you, you can take a proactive approach.
Check the stress levels in your home. What has your child bee doing and saying lately? Are you seeing stress behaviors? What about you? If people are stomping and screaming at your house, take note. The behavior isn't about purposefully being mean and nasty. This is not the time to mete out punishments or to pull apart. It's time to hunker down and address the real emotions that are fueling those behaviors emotions like fear, sadness, worry, disappointment, grogginess, and that general feeling of being overwhelmed.
While recognizing your child's stress is a very important step, you won't want to stop here. In order to stay out of the power struggles, you need to know what strategies will keep your child working with you.
Enforcing the Standards
It's difficult to feel sympathetic toward a kid who has just smacked you in the face and called you stupid. That's why your first response in any situation is to enforce your standards clearly No matter how stressed your child is, he still cannot strike out at you, call you names, rudely order you around, constantly talk like a baby, or forget his homework every day.
Remember as you enforce your standards that if you don't want your child to be slamming doors and calling people names, you can't either. He's watching you!
And because those hormones are pumping through his brain, you also can't just tell him to stop. You have to go to the next step and help him understand what he needs and teach him what he can do and say. Fortunately there are ways to get your needs met as you meet his. When you and your kids are stressed, here are three things to remember:
- Nurture more.
- Create stability and predictability where you can.
- Create rituals that connect you.
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.