The Best Years of Their Lives?
Today, Kids Know All About Stress!

The truth is…I don't know how Norman Rockwell's family did it. The Cleavers? Cunninghams? The Berenstain Bears? What I DO know is: "That was then. This is now". Parenting, the process of providing safe passage for another human being from conception through adulthood in a 21st Century world, is not for the faint of heart. But you know what? BEING a child can be very stressful these days…

Secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.
The nightly news reminds us all too frequently of the fragility of the human spirit…but also of its extraordinary potential to process… and to heal. Ongoing stress-management strategies and techniques are as essential to your own health as moderate, regular exercise, good nutrition, satisfying work, recreation and meaningful, loving relationships. As you travel along your own road to creating new healthy ways to cope with the unprecedented stress of an ever-changing world…don't forget to fasten your kids seatbelts too!

"Children are not little adults."
The day-to-day stress experienced by children in their own worlds, and those of the adults around them, can be devastating,. And the playtime pace and the innocence enjoyed by previous generations is a thing of the past; at least as we knew it. Kids don't miss much. The need for caring adults to listen, and to interpret and explain events in appropriate and comforting ways, is one of the greatest challenges to our culture today. Family arguments, financial stress, scheduling hassles, adult depression, violence and substance abuse…even world events…all are processed through the filter of a child’s eye perspective. Young children’s expressive language regarding their observations and sensory experiences may be limited to dreams, drawings, tears, and tantrums or bedwetting, in some cases.

7 Tips to Reduce Childhood Stress
- Daily quiet-time alone with a parent. (This time is sacred—no interruptions.) Talk about how things are going.

- Share some of your own successes with small stressful moments, to demonstrate that everyone experiences…and copes with stress. (e.g. "Today I was so frustrated, while my train was delayed, so you know what I did? I opened my wallet and looked at your picture and it cheered me up! Then I remembered how much fun that picnic was last summer, and how hard we all laughed! Would you like to go on a picnic this weekend?")

- Be ready to really listen… between the words, without judgement. Be prepared for anything… without necessarily being able to fix it. Sometimes the open sharing and acceptance of our worries has a way of dissipating them.

- Encourage drawing, artwork and physical activities that are healthy, easily available ways to discharge anxiety and release endorphins.

- Make it your business to monitor and restrict your child’s TV, movie and Internet exposure. Their psychological safety is as much your responsibility as, say, fire-prevention.

- Ask your child’s teacher or a children’s librarian about good "ice-breaker" books to open subjects that your child might need to talk about. (These talks work better during the day than at bedtime…when there is plenty of time to process thoughts and share lovingly back and forth.

- Always remember how intuitively gifted kids are, and that even when you think they do not understand the stress in your own life, the household, etc…they are likely sensing and internalizing that tension on levels they may not be able to discuss.

…A Word About The Wonder Years
Teenagers wake up every day in a different body, and the stress inherent in adolescence impacts many developmental areas:
- Self-esteem issues
- Peer pressure etc.
- Hormonal swings and awakening sexuality
- Acne, perspiration, body-consciousness, etc.
- Academic pressure
- Social pressure to conform…or not!
- Over / under-eating
- Temptation to experiment
- Family conflicts regarding school, authority and autonomy issues

Every single tip suggested above for younger children applies for teens as well. While many parents stay home until their children are off to school all-day and then go back to work, I actually have a friend who renegotiated her professional hours when her kids entered middle school so that she could be available after school to carpool, help with homework, sports, etc. She explained, "In some ways they really need my supervision and guidance even more now than when they were little." Interesting perspective…

Take time to slow your child's world down and make it a lighter, gentler, safer one. Give them language to communicate their fears and questions and secret wishes. You do not have to do this important job alone. Many skilled professionals, seminars, articles and books can offer manageable strategies for preventing, assessing and relieving stress in children. Talking with trusted friends is a great way to share what works and avoid "re-inventing the wheel"…which is, after all… VERY stressful!

[Copyright 2007 Susie Mantell. All rights reserved. Federal law prohibits use of this content in whole or part without written consent of Relax. . .Intuit (tm)L.L.C. Kindly email reprint requests to info @ ]

Author's Bio: 

Stress-relief expert Susie Mantell's award-winning relaxation CD,"Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace" has been featured in The Los Angeles Times, NBC,ABC -TV, Billboard, Town & Country, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, The American Pain Society, Hazelden, and is clinically approved to soothe stress, sleeplessness, PTSD and depression. Listeners include The Mayo Clinic, and Canyon Ranch ("BEST SPA.") Customizing programs for Fortune 500 companies, distinguished medical centers and spas, Mantell's techniques are seen in leading magazines, syndicated media, medical and corporate newsletters. [Copyright 2000, '01,'02,'03,'04 All rights reserved. Federal law prohibits use of this content in whole or part without written consent of Relax. . .Intuit (tm)L.L.C. Kindly email reprint requests to Find more of Susie's

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