Studies show kids and youth are stressed out more than ever before.
Dealing with exam stress, social pressures, schoolwork, and screen time, all while navigating a pandemic has resulted in higher levels of anxiety and stress among young people.
What is stress?
Stress refers to a situation or event that causes us to feel physical, emotional, or psychological
strain. Stress has always been a part of human life, and as a result, our bodies evolved a system to help us handle it. This system triggers a short-term “fight, flight, or freeze” response in our bodies and minds, designed to help us find safety until the danger has passed.
Unfortunately, if the situation does not pass quickly, this system runs much longer than intended, which can negatively impact our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
What can cause stress in children?
Just like adults, every child is unique–we all have our own triggers when it comes to stress.
Stress can have many causes, which can be short-term or long-term. Some causes may include but are not limited to:
experiencing planned or unplanned changes
feeling a lack of control over situations
feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities
feelings of uncertainty or worry that they cannot resolve
feeling bored, purposeless, or aimless
Whether you’re a parent, educator, youth worker, or someone who supports children–it’s never pleasant to see children experiencing stress. Here are some ways we can help:
1. Focus on reframing stress
Sometimes, stress can be a good thing for children! It gives them an opportunity to grow and become resilient when faced with tricky situations in the future. Things like the first day of school nerves, attending a new club or activity, and maintaining grades are all types of positive stress.
2. Combat negative thinking
“I can’t do that!” “I’m bad at crafts.” “I’m ugly.” “I won’t make the team.” Both kids and teens can fall into the trap of negative thinking. It’s instinct to disagree and tell them they can do something, but this can be damaging to a child's self-esteem.
Instead, remind them of a time they worked hard and improved, offer a helping hand, and never deny their emotions. “I know this is really tricky and you’re feeling frustrated. Let’s try it together!” “I remember when you found putting your jacket on difficult at the start of the year, look how much easier it got with practice!”
Learning to frame things positively will help future generations develop resilience and grow into empowered adults ahead. At Wymbin, we use Stix & Stones affirmation cards daily to support children in developing a positive growth mindset–take a peek here!
3. Practice problem solving
It’s natural to want to fix your child’s problems, but when we solve every little glitch, children aren’t presented with the chance to learn healthy coping skills. By allowing children to solve their low-stake problems on their own, they gain confidence that they can deal with setbacks and stressors.
Brainstorming solutions together, listening more, weighing up the pros and cons of each proposed idea, and then choosing one will support them in developing a process instead of simply reacting.
4. Practice stress management techniques
Both Stride Psychology and Wymbin offer support with tools to help children manage stress. Breathing exercises, movement, mindfulness, and listening to music are just some of the techniques that can help. Stride Psychology offers counselling for children who experience stress and/or difficulties managing their emotions. Wymbin offers a 6-week yoga class series where children and youth can practice movement and learn to regulate their emotions–check out our next yoga series for April.
Give our 5-finger breathing technique a go below:
5. Be a role model!
Prioritize your sleep, healthy eating, exercise, and mental wellness. Kids and youth learn best from big people and others around them! Let children know that even adults aren’t perfect–we experience our very own emotions too. “Even I feel sad and need to cry sometimes too, that’s ok. You’re safe and we’ll make your heart feel happier soon.”
- Wymbin Team x Simren Jhuty
Simren Jhuty is a Calgary-based Psychologist and is registered with the College of Alberta Psychologists. She is the Founder and Clinical Director of Stride Psychology. She has worked in private, research, hospital, and educational settings, including the Calgary Board of Education.
Simren offers counselling to individuals and provides them with tools to help improve their wellbeing and resilience. In addition, she has extensive experience in conducting standardized psychological assessments for all ages to assess intellectual, academic, social-emotional, and behavioural functioning.
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