Sunday, April 20, 2014

Kids Handling Stress

This past week in a facilitator training, we talked a lot about handling stress and the difference between how kids and adults handle and show stress.  I thought about how my own kids handle stress, how my kids at work handle stress, and then of course how I handle it.  I know I've posted on this topic for adults before, but I have been thinking very heavily about helping kids to handle stressful situations.

What do we do?
When adults are stressed, we see a variety of signs.  We show it first on our face with signs of being "flustered", maybe withdrawn, strained, sad, solemn, or serious.  We might also bury our hands in our face, sigh constantly, have little patience when explaining something, have short words with people, say things we really wouldn't say if we were feeling good, blame others, yell.....

What do kids do when they are stressed?

Things I think of are cry, throw tantrums, cling to people they love, or just act out in a negative way.  

We as adults may be able to figure out what it is that is causing our stress.  We can re-trace those thoughts and think about what thought it was that we got to that caused our stress or what situation or event is causing it.  Kids often do not have a clue what the cause is, but they know they do not feel good.  

Positive ways to handle stress and prevention

I have thought a lot about the things that help me as an adult.  I love running around, especially at soccer, dancing/exercise workouts, talking it out with someone, sitting outside, stretching, playing the piano, guitar or drums, singing, journaling, and praying.


There are many things we can teach kids.  It's hard to do a stress release activity in the middle of an anger spell or tantrum, but if these are things they practice ahead of time, they will be more likely to respond to it during the moment.  Our brains love patterns and the brain normalizes repetition/ things that are repeated.  Some of these things are great prevention methods too.  Keeping kids in sports or something active may help stress to not escalate so much. 

Sensory- Running, jumping (trampolines), drumming, pushing a wall, pulling up on the bottom of a chair, petting animals, baking, Play Doh, clay, sensory buckets, bubble wrap popping, looking at calming pictures or watching a  calming jar.

Deep breathing- blowing bubbles, blowing pinwheels, lifting arms and dropping on drums

Sports- gymnastics, karate, soccer, baseball, basketball, football, dance, hiking, biking, swimming, horseback riding. 

Artistic- art, music, dance, drama, blocks. Legos

Kids can also learn more about the causes of negative emotions and how to handle them through dramatic play.  My kids love to watch me "talk" their stuffed animals and puppets. These animals can pretend to have a rough day at school or not know what to do in a social situation.  Brainstorming together with the child and "animal friend" can really help with motivation to solve the problem.