Is your child stressed out? Want to know how to protect your child from unnecessary stress? Refer to the 12 step guide below that together help provide a protective shield for your child against the stresses of our modern lives.
The greatest dangers to our kids may not be the ones we worry most about, the ones that make the news, like abduction and child molestation. Random abductions by strangers are relatively rare in the U.S., approximately 200 annually, and molestation is almost always perpetrated by someone the child knows. Most parents can reduce these risks dramatically with attentive parenting.
Stress researchers now believe that the greatest risk for many children is the stress of the way we live. Stress has an actual biological impact that causes physical, emotional, and brain changes. Stress makes all humans, young and old, more vulnerable to dangers from anxiety to depression, and from obesity to substance abuse.
The American Psychological Association’s annual stress survey has concluded that teens are as stressed as adults in our culture. In fact, adolescents are five to eight times more likely to report symptoms of anxiety and depression than kids who lived at the height of the Great Depression. But it turns out that even younger children are often more stressed than we realize.
Given how stressed we feel as parents, it’s often a surprise to hear that stress can be even worse for our children than for us.
Why children are prone to stress?
Kids suffer from the same hyper-scheduling as adults, but it’s made even more challenging by their immature emotional and intellectual development.
Children’s brains are still developing, laying down neural pathways in a daily context of stressful over-activity, upsetting images and hyper-stimulation.
Researchers are only beginning to understand the effects of this on children’s neurological development.
Compared to adults, children perceive themselves as powerless, at the mercy of schedules, parents, peers, school. They struggle with pressures that most of us didn’t, from much more homework to over-precocious peer culture to being constantly plugged in. They have less downtime, less playtime, less warm face-to-face connection, and less access to the grounding effects of nature.
But resisting the seductions of our culture altogether is impossible because virtually all parents participate in it ourselves. How many of us would be willing to move to the country and live slower, more peaceful lives without screens and alarm clocks, in tune with the rhythms of nature?
On the other hand, it is our job as parents to protect our children from things that may endanger their welfare, and we need to face the hard truth that some of what we take for granted in our modern lives is actually destructive to our children. I don’t have all the answers to this. But research studies do give us some guidance on how to protect our kids.
Here are a dozen tips that together help you protect your child against the stresses of our modern lives.
1. Slow down.
Humans are designed to love excitement and novelty, but stress kills. Literally. Stress erodes our patience, our health, and our ability to give our best to our kids. Stress makes us edgy and compromises our emotional control so we’re more likely to become annoyed or angry. Stress sabotages our immune systems and our energy levels.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we can usually see how we make our lives more stressful than they need to be, simply by being unwilling to make the choice to pare back. If you want your child to behave better, start by slowing down and not rushing so much. Your child will gravitate toward your centered presence and want to follow your lead.
2. Resist the impulse to over-schedule your child.
All kids need downtime, creative time, time to dream and do nothing and even get bored. Kids need to learn to like being with themselves without being entertained. They need quiet to tap into their own still voice.
They need to notice that when we’re still, unfinished emotional business often arises, swamps us, and then passes away, resolved, leaving us more free.