Stress Busters for Children

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Posted by Manisha Pandit

stress (strĕs)
n.
1. A mentally or emotionally disruptive or upsetting condition occurring in response to adverse external influences and capable of affecting physical health, usually characterized by increased heart rate, a rise in blood pressure, muscular tension, irritability, and depression.
2. A stimulus or circumstance causing such a condition.

Just as adults do, children suffer from stress, too. Pressure comes from many quarters: peers, school, playground, teachers, to mention just a few. In some children, especially gifted children, symptoms of stress are often highly elevated. What may seem like a perfectly normal situation could cause stress on a daily basis for a child, for example, the very act of going to school even though the child may enjoy his day at school. The moment of parting from a parent can remain traumatic, even through elementary school. There are many methods and techniques of conquering stress but it's a game of trial and error until you find the gold key that works for your child. This article focuses on a few techniques that families from my SENG parent group have found useful when talking about it does not help.
  1. Transitional Objects: Who hasn't heard of Linus from The Peanuts and his security blanket? Blankets, teddy bears, pacifiers, dolls are transitional objects for infants and toddlers, making it easier for them to cope with separation anxiety. For older children, transitional objects take on a slightly different meaning. It could be anything: a charm, a key chain, a flattened penny, or a button - something small. Find something that will fit in your child's pocket and is easily replaceable. Sit down with your child and explain that the transitional object is symbolic; and when you hand it to him, he understands that you must separate for the day but when he touches or feels that object through the day:
    • that things will work out, regardless of how dark the situation looks at the moment
    • familiarity of the transitional object will provide a feeling of comfort
    • and it is his link with you and your unconditional love and support for him.

    When he comes home, have him hand the object back to you. This can be interpreted in several ways depending on how the day went:
    • he is in his own environment now and does not feel threatened or pressured
    • he is voluntarily giving up the negative emotions associated with the day.

    Since transitional objects are small and inobtrusive, they can be used without the fear of being ridiculed by other children, and for as long as your child needs them. Adults are known to wear charms or carry items that 'give them strength' or 'make them feel good' - so why not a child?

  2. Visualization: This is a powerful technique that takes some practice before it can be used effectively. On a day that your child is relaxed and content, find a quiet place in the house and ask her to do a short mental exercise with you. Have her lie down or get into a comfortable sitting position and then ask her to close her eyes. Tell her she is going to take a short trip and then ask her where she is going or where she would like to go, what she is carrying with her, if she has any companions or pets with her, and ask her to describe her destination when she gets there. Have her experience this happy place with all her senses: what does she see, what sounds is she hearing, can she smell anything, but most of all, how does she feel? Then tell her to "take a picture" of this wonderful and peaceful place and tuck it away in her memory, for future recall.

    Help her use this "peaceful picture" by prompting her to visualize it when you see her getting stressed. Right before a recital, during a soccer game, before an exam. Whisper "think of your picture" or "remember your happy place" or something appropriate that will help her visualize that calming scene again and put her in the right frame of mind. After a while, she will not need to be prompted and will pull out that picture from her memory into her present. This picture will have become a stress reliever for your child.

  3. Warm baths: Long soaks in hot baths with lavender help relax tired and aching muscles. They also have a soothing effect on frayed nerves. When it seems like you are up against a wall and not getting through with love and logic, a hot bath - not for you, but for your child - is often the answer. If nothing else, it will help ease some of the stress of the day. You could always do the same for yourself once your child is taken care of!

  4. Physically demanding activities: Cross country running, long bike rides, swimming laps are some of the physically demanding activities that allow stressed children to vent some of those pent-up feelings. The endorphin rush, muscular exertion and the feeling of good tiredness work together to put your child into a relaxed mood. You may notice that many of the perceived stresses either evaporate or that your child is better able to deal with them after working out rigorously.
Tolerance of stress is important in order to build persistence and to be able to handle the ambiguities of life. This holds for all children, whether gifted or not; and we play a huge role, as parents, by helping them handle challenging situations and cope with problems as they arise. Allow them to understand that stress is not all bad. Stresses of challenge and learning can have positive results. It is the burdensome stress that needs to be tackled so that it does not become debilitating on a daily basis.

My SENG group has been an eye-opener for me on many fronts. Not only was there support from other parents who had been in similar situations but finally, there was a group of people who understood what I was ranting about. Our group was facilitated by two TAG Coordinators from our school district. We used the book Guiding the Gifted Child as the background for our learning and our discussions. Ask your school district if they have any parent groups that you could join or if they could put you on their (TAG) mailing list through which a lot of information is shared about talks, discussion groups and programs for parenting gifted learners.


This post was written by Manisha

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7 comments:

Very nice post.
I have a 2 yr old and warm bath seems to help him a lot, to get him out of his crankiness. How old should the kid be to try the "Visualization" method ? I think he is too young to understand it now.
Thanks
Kavitha

Anonymous said...
March 6, 2009 at 1:37:00 AM GMT+1  

Kavitha, children have vivid imaginations and indulge in pretend play all the time. Visualization, to me, is an extension of that. Having said that, I would think it would depend on the child an dhis maturity level. It also depends on the kind of stresses he is experiencing.

Manisha said...
March 6, 2009 at 3:20:00 AM GMT+1  

What a wonderful post, Manisha...glad you shared the information. I'm sure to refer to them :-)

sunita said...
March 7, 2009 at 5:57:00 PM GMT+1  

Soeren has a little doll out of cloth, nothing stuffed etc. just a piece of colorful cloth with a head on it. He has had it since he was 3 months old (I've bought new ones and replaced in over the years!) but he still has this as his stress buster. On some days after school he will go straight up to his room and come down with it - it signalizes to me he had a hard day. And he especially needs it while sleeping. He will be seven but I am glad he has it and there is no way I will take it away!

WOnderful post!

MeetaK said...
March 12, 2009 at 2:11:00 PM GMT+1  

very nice posting

Gayathri said...
March 13, 2009 at 2:18:00 AM GMT+1  

Hi,
Thats a really very nice article. Its really gives alot of knowledge. I am surely reffer other to read your article.

David Runnels said...
March 23, 2009 at 6:35:00 AM GMT+1  

Hi,
Thats a really very nice article. Its really gives alot of knowledge. I am surely reffer other to read your article.

David Runnels said...
March 23, 2009 at 6:35:00 AM GMT+1  

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