The new school year is here. Your child is stressed. You’re stressed. And life continues to dole out ‘unprecedented’ challenges.
How do you help your stressed kid learn to thrive in this complicated world?
Sadly, most people were never taught much about the science of stress, how it affects them, or effective tools to handle it.
In fact, many were rewarded for ignoring it in the pursuit of “success,” leaving them feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or like there is something wrong with them.
Don’t pass that legacy on! Simple shifts in how you understand stress, how you talk about it, and what skills you learn to handle it can make an enormous difference in your children’s (and your) futures.
With very little effort, you can give them the knowledge and skills that build “coping confidence” to keep their stress from being toxic.
Here are 6 ways to empower a stressed kid in the new school year:
1. Name it to tame it
Not talking about the elephant in the room doesn’t help anyone. Kids can sense your stress, mentally and physically, just as you can sense theirs. You’re wired for that.
Help your child with the language to describe the nuances of their mental and physical experience of the world.
Help them connect situations and emotions with what they’re feeling — not in victim mode, but in curious learning mode.
The internet is packed with age-appropriate, free feelings charts and resources to help.
2. Build self-awareness
Self-awareness is a powerful life and leadership skill that will help your kids succeed. In a world so focused on external validation, it can be hard to learn how to know if you’re okay by “checking in” instead.
This awareness allows them to make adjustments earlier, learn to better meet their own needs, and be less influenced by external pressures.
Help your child connect mind and body and learn to read “inside cues” to know if they are okay or not.
Share what you feel when you are worried or notice something is off. Share how you know you’re okay. Ask what they notice first when they are feeling upset or worried.
Long before the melt-down, there are signs that things are going awry. Later, you can teach your child to use these as a cue to start to self-calm.
3. Choose your words wisely
Demystify stress and de-demonise it. Challenges are part of life and, luckily, humans are very adaptable. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with you if you feel stress.
This is your brain doing its job to keep you safe. But words have the power to change your perception of stress as well as its toxicity.
Help your child learn about their brain, how to distinguish mountains from molehills, and how their language has power.
Try using the 1-10 scale. Maybe this is not “The worst day ever!” Maybe you’re feeling betrayed (and that does feel yuck!), so let’s brainstorm what you can do to feel OK again.
4. Ramp up your curiosity
When you approach challenges with curiosity, you increase access to the creative brainpower needed to handle the challenge.
5. Model curiosity
Praise curiosity. Help your child learn to ask questions to find their power.
What makes you feel stronger? What worked before? Who is your role model for brave? What helps your tummy feel better when you get angry?
What is your brain trying to tell you? And what choices make stress worse? Better? Do you feel better after taking a run?
6. Build coping confidence
When you feel like you have the skills and resources to handle a challenge, the stress of that challenge is not toxic.
Help your child notice strengths and what works for them. If they’re school age, have them take a strengths test. (Take the adult version yourself!)
Brainstorm possible solutions together. Have fun and don’t stop until you have some good ones and some silly ones.
Learn and practice calming and grounding skills together. Create a toolbelt of stress-coping skills or maybe a cape? Pinterest has lots of activities for this.
You have an amazing opportunity right now to be part of building a stronger, healthier, and happier generation and feel better yourself in the process!
Yes, stress is part of life and we can all be a team — “Stronger than Stress” — by learning more about ourselves, our amazing brains, and tools and skills to help us thrive.