August’s Parenting Tip: Helping Children Cope with Stress

As adults we talk about being stressed, and we sometimes forget young children can experience stress, too. Excessive commitments, family conflict, and problems with peers are all stressors that overwhelm children. As parents, we need to figure out ways to cope with the stress in our lives. We also need to be able to teach our children to do the same.

According to Dana Brumm, Curriculum Specialist for Ebenezer Child Care Centers with locations on Milwaukee’s Southside and in Downtown Milwaukee, Oak Creek, and West Allis/Wauwatosa, “When children are experiencing stress, they need to have coping strategies and be able to do something in the moment to calm down. The key to helping children manage stress is to be proactive and learn coping strategies.”

Here are some tips to teach your children how to manage stress successfully.

Teach Them a Few Quick Calming Strategies

Brumm recommends that, when children are experiencing stress, they need to be able to do something in the moment to calm down. Learning to breathe and helping your children pause and regroup can do wonders.

Brumm says, “The key to a good deep breath is to have your child’s belly move, not their chest. When they breathe in, their stomach should be moving out. And when they breathe out, their stomach should move in. Use props to make it more fun, such as bubbles, or lying down with a teddy bear on their stomach.”

Another technique is to have your children think about a favorite place of theirs.  Maybe it’s the beach or a quiet spot in your home. Have them use their senses to think about this place – what do they see, hear, and feel? Encourage them to stay there for a few minutes.

Make Sleep a Priority
Sleep is vital for everything from minimizing stress to boosting your child’s mood.

Brumm says, “Always emphasize the importance of sleep with your children and be sure to create a sleep environment that facilitates good sleep by keeping electronics out of the bedroom.”

Prepare Your Children to Deal With Mistakes
Brumm says, “For children, a great deal of stress comes from the fear of making mistakes.”

She recommends that you remind them that they’re not supposed to know how to do everything or do everything right. Making good decisions is a great skill to learn but being able to recover from a poor decision is crucial to reducing stress.

“Help your children understand that making mistakes is part of the learning process. It is important to figure out the next steps after making a mistake. Figuring out how to fix mistakes, make amends, learn lessons, and move on are all crucial skills.”

Simplify Your Schedule
There is so much pressure to be busy every minute of the day, and that puts a lot of stress on everyone in the family. Brumm recommends talking with your children about their schedules. Do they still enjoy all of the activities? Is there something they would like to stop doing? Simplifying the family’s schedule will reduce stress and provide the opportunity for some down time and freedom to play, which is a great stress reliever.

Model Healthy Coping Strategies
As parents, we are our children’s first teachers. They observe our behaviors and see how we handle stressful situations. That’s why we need to model good, healthy coping strategies. What are your go-to coping strategies? Do you head to the gym for a cardio workout? Do a crossword puzzle?

Brumm recommends, the next time you use a coping skill, share that information with your children. Explain what you are doing. “I’m so stressed right now, and I just need a quick break. I’m going to do some stretches for 10 minutes.”

There will always be stress, but it’s all about how you manage it. The earlier your children can learn healthy coping skills, the bigger their repertoire will be. With a good set of coping strategies, they will be able to tackle stressful situations successfully.

Ebenezer Child Care Centers is a not-for-profit, locally based agency committed to providing early childhood programs from the heart. The agency prides itself on being different from other child care providers in that it offers a home-like atmosphere; individualized, nurturing care; and a structured curriculum that is virtues-based for every child’s developmental stage.
Every Ebenezer Child Care Center focuses on all aspects of a child’s development: cognitive, physical, emotional, and social. In addition to providing quality care, the agency also offers other educational programming all aimed at helping parents.

The agency has locations in on Milwaukee’s Southside and in Downtown Milwaukee, Oak Creek, and West Allis/Wauwatosa. The agency’s main office is located at 1496 South 29th Street, Milwaukee. For more information, please call 414-643-5070.