IS SOME STRESS GOOD FOR CHILDREN?

 Are you sometimes stressed? .... Of course the answer is yes!   

We experience some level of stress every day. When we are overly stressed however, we don’t function as well as we could in a triggering moment or in our daily lives in general. If things are going smoothly, the prefrontal cortex area of our brain helps to keep emotions and impulses under control.  

As adults with a fully developed pre-frontal cortex, we have learned a few techniques to help this brain area stay in control and deal with the stress we experience. To regulate our stress levels we may stop and take a few deep breaths, refocus attention on something positive, we may initiate some physical movement with our body, recognize and acknowledge emotions, eat healthy foods, stay hydrated, get adequate amounts of sleep and take some time in nature.

Because children have immature brains, they are still in the process of learning how to develop positive stress responses and healthy habits. Because their brain is far from maturity, children become dysregulated very easily. It is through daily experiences of you using your calm brain (as often as you can) that they have the opportunity to learn and develop strong connections for this skill as the prefrontal cortex area of their young develops.

“When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.” – L.R.Knost

I am thrilled to share this guest post from Dr. Dave Walsh. It is one that gives parents and educators valuable information and guidance on this important topic. Rescuing children from stress or letting them handle it on their own is decision caring adults involved with children face every day. Dr. Walsh helps to relieve your stress about it with his valuable article. Enjoy!

Children and Stress: Too Hot, Too Cold or Just Right? 

It's not easy to watch our kids experience stress and disappointment. Resisting the urge to swoop in and "fix" things for our kids can take every ounce of self-control that we have. This instinct is important since prolonged stress can be damaging and traumatic for kids. Chronic or intense stress can negatively impact memory, learning, and physical and mental health. Sometimes it is absolutely critical that we intervene.

But this doesn't mean that all stress is bad. Good stress can be energizing and motivating. Unfortunately, our ideas about stress and children have gotten so skewed that ANY stress has gotten a bad rap. This has led too many parents down the wrong path. As opposed to equipping children with the tools to navigate and negotiate stress, many parents have focused all of their energy shielding them from it.

 All of us adults know that life can deliver a fair amount of stress and disappointment. How can we expect our kids to ultimately be able to handle this if they have never had any practice? Kids need some stress to develop their psychological muscles of resilience, stamina, determination, commitment, and perseverance. These are all qualities they need to succeed in their schools and relationships and, ultimately, in their communities and careers. If they don't build up these psychological muscles, they'll end up being emotionally flabby. 

We want our kids to be able to handle adversity and to grow into adults who can bounce back from difficult times, challenges, and even tragedy. Resilience is the quality that enables them to do that. The catch is that kids don't develop this quality automatically; we have to teach them. For many of us it is easier to race to the rescue or lower the expectations than to raise our kids' discomfort level. We would be wiser to learn when we need to encourage, when to help, and when to stay out, step back and let our kids' flex their emotional muscles.

Here are some practical tips for how to nurture:

  • Relax. If you're not having fun you may be pushing your kids too hard. 
  • Allow kids time for free play. It's a great natural way for children to learn how to manage their behavior and resolve conflict.
  • Praise your child, but be sure to make the praise authentic and meaningful. In other words, connect praise with wholehearted efforts and actions.
  • Provide care, nurturing, and support, but don't always swoop in to bail your child out of a difficult situation.
  • Help your child process the situation afterwards. "What did you learn? How did it make you feel to resolve that conflict? What might you do differently next time?"
  • Validate your child's frustration and acknowledge when something is difficult. "It makes sense that you are frustrated, geometry can be really challenging. I am really proud that you are sticking with it though. I can't solve this for you but why don't you explain to me what you've done so far."
  • Be patient with your child's efforts. You may be able to do a better or faster job of something, but your child loses the opportunity to learn when you take over.
  • Have clear and high expectations for your child's behavior.
  • Help your children build friendships and make connections by teaching them how to manage their own behavior and emotional impulses.
  • Expect children to do their chores and participate in the life and work of the family.
  • Back up teachers and schools. Fighting with teachers to boost your child's grade isn't doing anyone any favors. If you have a real concern about your child's performance schedule an individual meeting and come up with a plan together.
  • Encourage your kids to volunteer and help out others.

Do you have other tips for nurturing resilience in children? We'd love to hear them.


Dr. Walsh is the author of, Smart Parenting, Smarter Kids: The One Brain Book You Need to Help Your Kids Grow Brighter, Healthier, and Happier 

His website can be found here:  Mind Positive Parenting


It is a wonderful pleasure to have Dave on the Brain Insights Advisory Board.

 

For stress free ideas to do with your children during everyday life have Neuro-Nurturing Interaction Packets right on hand! 

 

 

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