How to Make Stress Relief Part of Your Kids' Lives

Father and daughter practicing yoga
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Stress is no longer just a problem for busy adults; children now need stress relief more than ever. A national poll from the American Psychological Association showed stress to be a top children's health concern with a rank that jumped up several slots from previous years. Because stressed children often become stressed adults, stress relief for kids is important for now and for the future of our children's health. Here are some strategies to promote stress relief for kids, and simple ways to implement them that can bring stress relief for the entire family. Try the following, to promote stress relief for kids.

Connect With Your Kids

Children and teens need to have a solid connection with parents and other adults to fully benefit from their experience, wisdom, and support. Don't forget to spend time with your children, listen to them, and connect while doing things together that you both enjoy. If the lines of communication are open, they'll be more likely to talk to you and use you as a resource when they're stressed.

Here's How: Schedule in time to do things together as a family, particularly activities that allow for healthy communication. Some families like to ride bikes on a quiet path, play board games and card games, and set aside time to goof off around the house. (Yes, sometimes you need to schedule the time to be spontaneous.) Other families take frequent weekend camping vacations which get them into quiet environments free from distractions, practice team sports together and cheer one another on when they play, or have family meetings every few weeks to simply touch base.

Your family may use some of these strategies or try something unique, but it's important to have a few ideas up your sleeve that promotes stress relief for kids.

Cut Down On Unnecessary Stressors

Today's kids and teens are more scheduled than in previous generations. In some ways, this is a positive thing: kids who are involved in many structured activities are exposed to skill-building experiences and have opportunities to make friends. However, 'down time' is important for kids and adults alike, and if kids are so over-scheduled that they have no time to decompress, they're more likely to be stressed. Also, they likely won't be learning when and how to set limits on their schedules as adults.

Here's How: If you suspect your children are over-scheduled and over-stressed, learn to set priorities and cut back, just as you would with your own schedule.

Talk to your child and experiment with different levels of busy-ness; you'll likely find the right balance that way.

Take Care of Basic Needs

It may not be obvious, but children who aren't sleeping enough, getting adequate exercise, or eating a healthy diet are more susceptible to stress, just as adults are. That's why it's important to be sure that they're sleeping well, eating well, and learning the importance of self-care.

Here's How: This one's simple: be sure to stock the house with healthy food, have a routine that promotes peace in your house at night, and be sure your child gets enough exercise through activities he or she enjoys. Busy schedules, picky tastes, video games, and uncooperative children themselves may conspire to make it more challenging to ensure all of these ingredients are present in your children's lives, but self-care is worth the effort. Make these things a priority by scheduling them into your lifestyle and cutting out activities that interfere. (This may be easier said than done, but stress relief for your kids is important enough to make the effort worthwhile.)

Teach Your Children Stress Management Techniques

Stress management really should start in childhood. Because today's kids are growing up fast and generally experience stress from high demands early on, and because too much stress can be detrimental for kids and for their future (adult) selves, it's never too early to teach stress management techniques to your children, and help them practice them regularly.

Here's How: Even very small children can master breathing exercises, yoga poses, or various forms of exercise, and stress-relieving attitudes can be instilled from the early years as well. Practice yoga with your kids. Help them write in a journal while you write in yours.

Breathe together. You'll teach your child valuable techniques and you'll get the benefit of practicing them yourself. Plus, you'll be creating wonderful memories for both of you.

Manage Your Own Stress

Studies show that adult stress affects kids, but it doesn't take a social scientist to point out that when we're depleted, we have less to give to others. In addition to keeping our emotional reserves full enough to help our children with coping, our own practice of stress management techniques can provide our children with healthy role modeling for their own stress management.

By Elizabeth Scott, MS
Elizabeth Scott, MS, is a wellness coach specializing in stress management and quality of life, and the author of "8 Keys to Stress Management."