It’s common to assume that childhood is such a time of magic and wonder that things like stress and anxiety just don’t exist. Or at least, not on the same level as they may for adults, anyway. In reality however, on-going studies have brought to light evidence that up to 20% of all children of school-age suffer from a degree of stress and anxiety at one time or another. And this is of course only the number of children that admitted to such feelings – experts believe the actual number could be more than double this.
Which begs the obvious question – what can be done on the part of parents to help tackle childhood stress and anxiety? Kids aren’t generally so inclined these days to confide in their parents as far as their feelings are concerned, so what can be done realistically to help?
Well, first of all it’s a good idea to acknowledge the fact that the very core of human nature is such that we instinctively think that running away from problems is the best way to go. Of course it’s nothing of the sort…at least in a psychological sense…which is why this is often the first point to address with your children. Teaching your kids the importance of facing their fears rather than hiding or running away from them can work wonders – even though it tends to be easier said than done. A good idea can be to lead by example – tell them what kinds of fears you’ve faced up to in order to inspire them.
Something else of key importance is to get the message across to your kids that imperfections are not just what make us human, but should be celebrated. Every kid across the board will face a whole world of difficult situations when growing up. Some will develop slower than others, some might need a course of speech and language therapy and others will flourish and flounder in other areas. But in all instances, these growing pains are both temporary and should never be run away from. If you can get your children to embrace the idea of imperfection, it can work wonders for their anxiety and stress.
If you’re the kind of person who swears every time it rains and panics every time you read the news, chances are you’re not doing a great deal for the stress and anxiety levels of your kids. Children naturally feed of the behaviours and emotions of their parents, which in turn means that the more stressed you are and the more often, the more they too will be as a result. So even if it means going against your own instincts, it’s important to be a shining beacon of positivity in order to help nurture similar positivity in them. You might have to learn to bite your tongue, but it will benefit the whole family in the long-run!
It’s no secret that one of the best ways of getting kids to do anything at all is to grease the wheels with an incentive or two. And it’s no different in the case of facing their fears either – when and where there’s a display of confidence, bravery or essentially overcoming anxiety to take a bold step forward, this is the ideal opportunity to throw a small reward into the mix. It might sound a little bit like setting in place a dangerous routine where they’ll go on expecting rewards, but sooner or later, the good habits will set in and the rewards will no longer be necessary.
It’s also important to acknowledge the fact that when it comes to stress and anxiety, there’s often no bigger trigger than poor health in general. If, for example, your child is clearly not getting enough exercise, has poor dietary habits or more often than not doesn’t get enough sleep at night, this is 100% guaranteed to have a knock-on effect on their anxiety and stress levels. When and where this is the case, it’s also one of the easiest to combat.
Last but not least, if often takes professional psychologists dealing with adult patients many months or years to reach a breakthrough – you can’t expect to work magic with your own kids overnight. It’s a case of being as patient as possible and persevering, as opposed to rushing or even trying to force them into changing for the better. Of course, if you find yourself in a worrying situation you should always seek professional help, but more often than not, a good deal of patience will pay off.