Helping Kids Cope
Once you've identified stress as a problem in your child's life, take measures to mitigate it. There's no single solution to stress. But there are various things you can do to soothe your child, so he or she can start enjoying a more stress-free life.
Be a vocal supporter. Talk to your child when something is wrong. Remember to be sensitive when doing so. For example, if your son or daughter is exhibiting a stressful reaction to something that happened at school, say, “You seem like you may still be a little upset about what happened at school today. Do you want to talk about it?” Let them know you care, and want to hear about their feelings.
Listen carefully. After asking your child what's wrong, listen with attention to what they have to say. Be patient, receptive, and, most important, caring. Never give in to the urge to blame them, even if it seems they are to blame. In the end, let what's troubling your child be heard not with judgment, but with compassion and sensitivity.
Show empathy. When you show your child that you understand where they're coming from, it sends the message that you understand and care about their feelings. And when a child feels as if he or she is being understood, it provides a calming feeling. Saying something as simple as “I can see why you feel that way,” in response to a stressed-out child's complaint can really work wonders.
Guide them with words. Young children can't always find the words to express how they feel, and this often compounds the stress they're already feeling. Think about how frustrated you feel when no one understands you. Help your child by helping them put their feelings into words. This not only helps them learn to communicate their feelings, but also keeps them from expressing their feelings in more destructive ways.
Respect their emotional space. Don't force your child to talk about his or her feelings. If they don't respond to your efforts to get them to discuss the matter, give them space. But let them know you're there for them when they're ready to talk. In the meantime, make an extra effort to spend time with your child, doing constructive or fun things, like taking walks or playing games together. Just being with them will put them at ease, and if they want to talk, they'll come around eventually.