Stress is an inevitable part of life. As your child encounters new situations and people throughout their youth, they’re bound to feel a little nervous, frustrated, or angry. While stress can be hard for children and teens, they can learn skills to successfully navigate difficult situations with your help.
Estimated reading time: 3.5 minutes
Teach Your Child How to Handle Stress to Build Resiliency
Here are four ways to help your child monitor their stress levels, learn to self-regulate, and destress while cultivating resiliency.
Understand the Experiences that Are Stressful for Your Child
Different events trigger each child’s stress uniquely. Some may fear heights or the dark, which heighten their stress levels. Others may experience strain due to schoolwork, extracurricular activities, or social issues in their peer groups. Discomfort can also be caused by uncertainty or a loss of control. For example, when a child enters a new school or is confronted with their parents’ arguments or divorce.
Stress is an integral part of life, so children need to build a healthy tolerance for when they encounter it. When you understand the key experiences that lead to your child's stress, you can proactively arm them with tools and provide comfort and support.
For example, when you’re planning to move to another neighborhood or city, you can walk your child through what it will look like. For instance, give them a virtual tour of your new house, point out new opportunities, and remind them that they can Facetime their friends. The more knowledge they have, the less uncertainty about the future.
Related reading: "Make Moving Less Stressful and More Fun for Younger Children."
Each time you anticipate an event that will cause stress for your child, proactively initiate a discussion so your child doesn’t feel unprepared or alone. Soon, they will internalize this practice and be able to do it independently.
Create a Calming Home Environment
Children should always feel like they have a safe space at home. In times of stress, a calming home environment can increase a sense of comfort and help to put them at ease. A sense of calm is especially important in your child’s bedroom, which acts as a sanctuary—and is crucial for older teens who increasingly value privacy.
Get your child’s input on what colors, plants, and decorations they want, so their room feels like their own. Then, help them add some calming, finishing touches to their space. For example, you can add organizers to their closet to prevent chaotic messes or place an essential oil diffuser on top of their dresser with a calming lavender oil.
Also, take your child’s mental health needs and disabilities into account when designing any space in your home. Children with autism or ADHD may need sensory-friendly fabrics and calming wall colors like blue and green to avoid overstimulation. On the other hand, children with anxiety might benefit from a weighted blanket.
Teach Your Child How to Regulate Their Emotions
Showing your child how to care for their emotional and mental health is equally important as teaching them about hygiene and physical fitness. When your child understands that a certain amount of stress is natural, using stress-regulation techniques during agitating situations can become as easy as putting a bandage on a cut or taking medicine for a cold.
A big part of your child learning how to self-govern and regulate their emotions is teaching them to identify the signs of stress, including exhaustion and moodiness. This knowledge can assist your child in slowing—and even preventing—the instinct of going into survival mode, which can take a toll on the body in the long run.
Related reading: "How to Help Your Child Develop Self-Regulation Skills."
Instead, teach your child or teen to channel their stress into something positive. For instance, they can release their tension by playing or listening to music or working out in a gym down the basement. Let your child choose an activity they love to help replace stress hormones, such as cortisol or adrenaline, with the release of calming neurotransmitters like dopamine or serotonin.
You can also teach your child what to avoid in times of stress. For example, digital overload can raise stress levels, increase anxiety or depression, and even cause physical symptoms like headaches. Encourage your child to take healthy tech breaks and examine their relationship with social media so they have time to reflect on their experiences, soothe themselves, and focus on mindfulness exercises or intentional relaxation techniques.
Related reading: “How to Teach Children Emotional Regulation Skills.”
Don't Fix Everything for Your Child
The true goal of your parenting efforts to support your child is to empower them so they can solve their own problems. If you swoop in and solve problems for them, it can lead to learned helplessness, in which children become dependent on you and cannot then effectively deal with challenges as adults.
A more effective way to support your child is by equipping them with stress management tools and resources that help them grow self-reliant over time. As your child ages, your guidance should help them identify and cope with their stress independently. Yet, sometimes your support means finding them professional help for long-term chronic stress or traumatic stress.
Help Your Child to Navigate the World Successfully
While we'd all love to protect our children from the world's stressors, it's critical to recognize that stress is unavoidable. Giving your child the tools they need to independently self-regulate under challenging situations is the greatest help you can provide. Additionally, by providing a calming home environment, helping your child build stress management skills, and teaching them to know the difference between healthy and unhealthy stress, you will create a strong foundation for your child's resiliency and confidence.
If you'd like customized parent coaching, we are here to help! Parenting is a complex and difficult job with many new challenges. Please let us know how we can help.
Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.