Stress! It is a word that all adults know very well. You can find whole shelves dedicated to it in the bookstores. But less known is that it is not just an adult affliction. Yes, kids can have stress! Our world pushes kids hard. It pushes them to learn fast, to conform to the standard, to stand up for themselves and fight for what is right. By the time they get home from school, they have been working as long and as hard as many adults. Then they have homework. Meltdowns of all sorts are just some of the outward signs of overload. Even for kids who don’t have the added stress factor of Autism issues. And Mom’s start looking for ways to help cope. I have 4 of my 5 kids somewhere on the spectrum– I started looking early, and hard.
Here’s a few that I have found.
Different kinds of kids, and different kinds of stress = different busters!
One of the first things Mom’s figure out, is that no two kids are alike. What works for one child, will not necessarily work for the next one. (And probably won’t!) People watching skills become part of Mom’s job description- as learning her child makes it easier to find answers. Books help sometimes, My current favorites are “The Personality Tree”, and “The Five Love Languages” these two, together, went a long way in helping us personally and as parents. I also have found a great help from “Aspergers” by Tony Atwood. But I never let any of the books I study overrule the scriptures; there is a lot of parenting advice for those who look!
That said, I think I’ll start in no particular order…
TINY KIDS– (preschool) can’t tell you very well what’s wrong. They usually don’t know themselves. When they are clinging, irritable, or weepy or lethargic- Mom’s generally have to just run thru the list: Hungry, Tired , Ill , Now what? At this age, it could even be just bored. But some things are just too much, things I have seen are;
Ill: Even while treating an illness, it helps the child (and us) to also address the stress.
Moving to a new home: When my littlest was 2, this happened to us- she wouldn’t leave my side- even for my bathroom needs-The symptoms often looked like overload, but responded best to the distraction style of methods, and just letting it go till it worked out on it’s own. This one may not seem to go away (it took a full year for us) but eventually it does.
I have one child that cannot filter white noise subconsciously. All noise comes at her at the same volume at all times. When she was little, she would cry in all public places, and at home too when there was a lot of extended family visiting. Before she could learn to talk, she had to learn to filter thru all the noise with the conscious part of her brain (the on-purpose part of thinking) Meltdowns were frequent, and she could not tell me why. She finally was talking at nearly 4, and could handle primary singing-time by 7 (years old.) She does well now, and can even sing- but it is still on the conscious level. She is very tired by the time school is over, every single day. Stress coping strategies are our lifeline.
And then, there is school:
Not even counting learning new things, school is hard; with it’s separation anxiety, lots of kids with their interactions and noise, and everything else that is expected of them. Even when these things are fun, they get Very tiring, and when the kids get home, they relax, and then wilt.
OLDER KIDS: The fascinating thing I have learned is that it doesn’t seem to change much as they grow- stress knocks years off their otherwise maturity level, though sometimes they do better at telling you what’s wrong. Some coping distractions no longer appeal to my 17 year old, but I am trying to also teach things that they can carry with them.
So- feel free to mix and match as you find out what works….
-Videos: Veggie Tales, Pooh and Tigger Movies, the Liken series (from Deseret Book), old Gilligan’s Island movies, and some Disney’s have been the best videos for calming stress that I have found so far; pay attention to the kids reactions at your house and make your own list of first-line videos.
-Helping someone else (really!)
(no coping mechanism is allowed if it bothers others = causing a fight does not sooth anyone…)
-IPod and Earphones (and the movies listed above)
-Sitting by the Dryer and reading or playing
-Puzzles and Tangrams
-hot bath or shower
-drawing and paper work (like origami and quilling)
-felt shapes on a flannel board (mosaic pictures)
-home-made falling sand in a shadow box frame
-running away to room is only allowed if it doesn’t fester into a sulk- so I require the door to be left open, and I’ll go in and help talk it out after a very short time, and leave only after the first smile reappears- then they can play on their own all they want provided it doesn’t interfere with regular things like dinner and homework. I also tell them that putting off dealing with the problem only makes it worse… this useful mantra works very well with homework, saying sorry, and all sorts of other matters.
-hugs… at all times and places. My being willing to stop what I’m doing and hug as enveloping or as hard as they need seems to be an anchor in the storm for my kids.
-pin-art toys and kaleidoscopes and slinkies
-buttons or beads jar
-waxed string (this one is great at church!)
-beans –my sister never liked the mess of a sand box, and thought up a really clever alternative that worked even on her tiny budget. She got a large, shallow plastic box (the kind that fits under a bed) and filled it with several bags of various colored dried beans. It soothed little souls, and plastic dump trucks and shovels provided hours of little tike fun that she could sweep up easily and put back in the box.
-washing dishes by hand (for some kids)
-bread dough (pretzels) that they can shape into creatures, then bake and eat.
-Prayer (even for little ones)
-Gratitude (3 things every night that was good that day)
-Visualization. At night we practice imagining that we are laying on a beach, and sending a wave of an ocean called relax from our toes, slowly moving thru every inch of our body till it gets to the head. It should take at least several minutes to think your way to the neck, and then kiss them goodnight.
-They are old enough now, that during the day we are moving on to imagining all the stress brought to the lungs, and blown out in a slow, deep, breath- and captured in a big bubble that makes it float away. This one is hard for the kids to imagine and do- and the results are not as instant as providing distractions- but as we keep it up, I am noticing that the results are deeper and more long-lasting, because it is giving them a feeling of being in control of themselves.
Well hope this helps- I’ll be the first to admit it’s a short list. And I am still finding more, and more stress factors for my kids as they grow up and have to handle the world at the higher social skills levels… but I keep adding more helps to my list as I hear of them, and I welcome ideas.