Tips to Help Your Child Handle Stress – By Laurette Lipman, MA, LLPC, NCC of Embracing Life Counseling, LLC and Oakland County Moms.
It is difficult to watch our children deal with stress and emotional pain, and we often want to protect them from these feelings. However, emotional pain and daily stress are both a normal part of life. We can’t protect them from everything and as long as it is age appropriate, we need to let them experience some things so they become healthy, well-rounded adults later on. What we can do as parents, is help teach them how to express their emotions in a healthy way so they learn to not keep feelings bottled up inside. Here are a few tips to help your child handle stress.
TIPS TO HELP YOUR CHILD HANDLE STRESS
- Be Supportive – Sometimes you just need to be there. Let your child know that you are always there if they need to talk, and mean it when you say it. Without being forceful, ask about their day to show them that you do want to know what is going on in their life. They may not always tell you as much as you would like, but the point is that you are showing you care. It is important to show genuine interest by giving them your undivided attention, with eye contact, no distractions (put away the electronics!) and minimal talking on your end. It is nice to be able to regularly have this quality time with your child. You can start doing this with your children when they are young. It is a lot easier to establish an open relationship with your child before their teenage years. Most parents I have worked with, feel their number one concern is their child will not talk to them about anything. Doing these simple things will allow your child to feel more comfortable opening up to you, and that is half of the battle.
- Show Understanding – When you see your child having difficulty with something and you can tell they are upset, let them know that you notice. Try saying things like, “I see you are sad,” or “you are hurt,” or “I know you are mad/frustrated,” because it acknowledges their feelings and can prevent what they are feeling from escalating into a tantrum or more frustration. Everyone likes to feel understood and have their feelings acknowledged, even us as adults. Explain that you understand that sometimes it is hard to feel that way but that it is okay. Often we minimize their feelings by saying things like, “don’t cry,” “don’t be mad,” or even, “you are okay” too often. We think we are being comforting but really we are just telling them to stop what they are feeling or that they are wrong for having the those emotions. They might not be okay and what they are experiencing might be perfectly normal. You don’t have to solve their problems. Just acknowledge that you can tell they are hurt and they will appreciate you for it in the long run.
- Don’t Try To Give Too Much Advice – Most children do not actually want you to solve their problems, they want to figure it out for themselves. You should let them, it is a great learning experience! If you tell them what to do, it can come off as critical and often they will just do the opposite anyways. Once in awhile, you can ask if they would like your advice, but only give it if they say they want it! After you have built a more open and trusting relationship, they may start asking for your advice on their own later on. If you can tell that your child is stressed, ask them “can I help you with something?” or “how can I help you out?” but leave it mostly up to them. This way they will know you are there if they end up needing your help, but they have the freedom to attempt it on their own.
- Model Appropriate Expression Of Emotions – Modeling emotion can be the most challenging for parents because many of us have not really learned how to express our emotions appropriately. There is such a negative stigma attached to mental health and this is one of the largest reasons for people not seeking out help when they need it. We are often taught that we aren’t supposed to be angry, we aren’t supposed to cry and we aren’t supposed to feel depressed or have anxiety. We have learned to bottle our feelings up the way our parents and society have taught us. No one likes to feel these feelings and we often consider them “bad” feelings. We want to feel happy, excited, and proud, but no one wants to feel mad, sad or nervous. We also don’t like to admit we ever feel these things or show them to other people, because we feel they are a sign of weakness.
ABOUT LAURETTE LIPMAN, MA, LLPC, NCC
Laurette Lipman, MA, LLPC, NCC has over 2 years experience as a mental health therapist, and as a graduate of Oakland University, she is currently under supervision of a fully licensed professional counselor.
For more Tips to Help Your Child Handle Stress, visit www.embracinglifecounseling.com