Stressed-Out Kids: Learning to Deal with Life's Ups and Downs
In This Article:
Create an Allotment of Mental-Health Days
Bill found his son, Michael, slumped in the chair, tears trickling down his cheeks. This was not his usual cheery, self-sufficient, independent kid. "I was so surprised at first," he said, "I couldn't believe the we streaks on his cheeks were actually tears. But they were. I sat down next to him. 'What's up?' I asked.
'"I'm just so tired,' he groaned. I nodded, remembering the trip to visit grandparents in another town, two baseball games, early risings to finish homework. There was good reason for fatigue.
'"Do you need to sleep longer?' I asked him. He nodded. 'Can I have a mental-health day, Dad?' he asked, knowing that every year we allow our kids two days on which they can say, 'I just need to stop and rest.' reminded him that he'd have just one more mental-health day left.
"'I know,' he said, 'but I really need it.' I agreed, reminding him that when he awoke there was to be no watching television. He was to catch up on his homework. He agreed and fell back to sleep.
"He awoke at noon, hauled himself out of bed, and started reading A shower and lunch were his only other activities. When I came home it was as though a new person had come to reside there. This one was rested and pleased with himself that his homework was done. The next day he was up and out as usual, no complaints and no stalling. One day was all he, needed to recuperate."
You might be thinking. If I allowed my child mental-health days, he'd want one every week. My experience working with families is that kids don't abuse them. They hoard them.
2. Create Stability and Predictability Where You Can: Routines Matter
Often when we're stressed, it's because things are happening that a beyond our control. Surprises become the-"norm." The demands overwhelm us and the predictability and regularity of our day goes by the wayside. Meals go unplanned, car-pool plans collapse; bedtimes a thrown into chaos. When predictability disappears, kids go on alert, ready for fight or flight, and so do you.
Even on your most stressful days take a few minutes at night or in the morning to think through your day. This will really help. When will your child be going? Who will be picking him up? Will you partner be home tonight? Will you be there in the morning when your child wakes up? Will your child get the downtime in the morning that he's used to, or do you have an early meeting so you will t dropping him off early as well? Are you going home right away after picking up your child or running errands? Talk through the plan with your child and your partner. Predictability doesn't mean inflexibility. Alter plans as needed, but remember that the more you and your child know what to expect, the less energy you have to expend being alert.
Ultimately you can teach your child to ask, "What are the plans to the day?" As he grows older he can also create plans for himself. This predictability gives him some control, eases distress, and lessens hi need to control something else!
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.