Parents traveling with their jobs, taking on more work, venting personal information to their children, or signing their child up for one more class or activity at night to help with carpooling may help everyone get home, but it may also be the very activity that pushes a healthy balance to an unhealthy point for their child. Just as parents need "down time," their children do too. The loss of childhood is a serious and complex problem facing many families in America.
How can we protect our children's youth, help them manage necessary stress and minimize unnecessary stress? Below are a few suggestions for parents in managing their own stress as well as helping their children.
- The number one way to manage stress for parents is to prevent it from happening. Prepare yourself as a parent to not expect perfection, and instead focus on being happy and raising kids who feel good about themselves. The easiest way to do this is to focus on all you love and what is going great in your life. If your child is getting all B's with one C or D, focus on the B's with encouragement toward improving on the C or D.
- Minimize stress with exercise and healthy foods. When you make healthy choices you become happier. Taking ten minutes for you each day to exercise can minimize stress and anxiety while helping demonstrate a healthy lifestyle to your child.
- Take care of yourself spiritually. Your faith and beliefs can help you relieve stress. Praying, meditating and sharing your life with a community helps you feel less burdened and is more appropriate as a sounding board than using your children.
Parents helping their children minimize and manage stress:
- Talk to your kids about what is causing them stress in their life, and less about what is causing stress in your own life.
- Focus on helping your child develop a routine to follow each day. Consistency and structure minimize stress in kids.
- Make sure you have a bed time plan and your child is getting plenty of sleep. Catching up on weekends is not okay.
- Planning family meals rather than going out for fast food will reduce stress. Healthy eating doesn't have to be time consuming, and it allows you to spend more time engaged with your child.
- Less planned activities and having time to journal or work on hobbies gives children more control and encourages healthy coping and stress management.
You cannot escape stress and some stress is good for us. However, when your child becomes anxious, weepy, and unable to focus it's time to make changes in your family's lifestyle. -Mary Jo Rapini
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