Some kids just pop out of the womb self-assured and confident. Mine, not so much. Raising 2 former foster kids, assurance is like a foreign language in their minds! It’s been a huge learning process for us to figure out what works and what doesn’t in helping them find confidence in stress.
And I know we’re not alone. It’s a tough world out there. All kids face stress daily! If they’re not struggling to pull themselves up as infants, they’re learning to hold a utensil, or to navigate social dynamics at preschool. Later on, it’s exams, hormones, and jobs. Their special needs add another layer to what’s already a learning process for us all. How can we help our kids handle life’s stress with resilience?
A – Align with your child
- with their body language
- with their tone and volume of speech
- validate their feelings
S – Share your experience
- your feelings in stressful moments
- mistakes you’ve made and how you emerged from them
- how you cope with stress in day-to-day situations
- perspective you’ve gained from seeing “this too shall pass”
S – Skills-training
- give them words for feelings and worries
- get them involved in appropriate exercise and activities to release stress
- teach and model coping strategies like visualization, deep breathing, positive imagery
U – Uncover stress-related signs and symptoms
- body aches – head, stomach
- irritability and mood changes
- appetite changes
- sleep changes
R – Reassure them
- that they’ll come through
- that you’re there for them
- that you’re proud of the effort they’re investing in calming and coping
- things will normalize – recall examples
E – Engage the topic when they’re calm
- listen to what they say and don’t say
- respect their process in overcoming stress and worry
- brainstorm options while they’re calm, since that’s when the “thinking” part of the brain is turned on.
All this combines to ASSURE our kids in their own unique journeys through life.
Do you have a child who’s anxious or sensitive to stress? What’s helped them?
P.S. Here are a few extra resources – books and sites we’ve found helpful in our family:
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
- Making Heart Bread
- When My Feelings Get Too Big
- Parenting Magazine: Help Children Deal with Stress
- Lori Lite’s Stress Free Kids