Absence of Stress

Hi everyone and welcome to my blog. If this is your first visit, please be sure to read my previous blogs as they’re all part of a series I’m writing about raising resilient kids in these busy times. These blogs are the result of inspiration I received from reading Maggie Dent’s book “Real Kids in an Unreal World”, and my desire to connect with all of you loving parents.

So….. Absence of Stress. Is that considered an oxymoron(*) nowadays? It seems to me that we all are living stressful lives and seem to be accepting that this is the norm now.

*(OXYMORON: A contradiction in terms)

Stress and anxiety are hot keywords now and we, as a society, are learning so much about them. I love the fact that people are sitting up and paying attention to the information available to us about these awful conditions that are making daily life so challenging for so many of us (children included).

I know as an adult how difficult it can be to manage stress well. It was not something we were taught growing up. Now that life has become so much faster and demanding, I believe that we owe it to our children to teach them about stress and anxiety and how to manage them. Quoting Maggie Dent, “Stress is the response to the perception of lack of control. Children are susceptible to stress because they seldom have much control over their environment.”

We know that anxiety is a normal healthy emotion and that mild stress is something that also occurs and can be good for brain growth and development. However, prolonged periods in these states can have harmful effects on us, impacting on the size and growth of brain cells and our ability to learn and to self-regulate.

Studies have made it clear that the causes of many behavioural problems with children are a result of their inability to self-regulate.

According to Dr Stuart Shanker, a leading researcher and expert on self-regulation, “The better kids self-regulate, the better their self-control and the better they will manage themselves, their social environment and the better they will learn at school.”

So, I guess the clear message I’m getting from my research into this subject is less stress and anxiety leads to happy, healthy and well-adjusted children.

Let’s break it down a bit…….

What are some of the effects/ symptoms of stress and anxiety in children?

  • stomach aches

  • headaches

  • sleeping difficulties

  • avoiding school

  • nail biting

  • angry outbursts

  • temper tantrums

  • aggression

  • attention-seeking behaviours

  • social difficulties

  • attention and concentration difficulties

And that’s only some of them. Stress and unhealed trauma can underlie many mental disorders later in life, such as:

  • depression

  • phobias and obsessions

  • physical symptoms and illness

  • lethargy

  • lack of desire and excitement

  • substance abuse

With so many children being diagnosed with stress/ anxiety disorders nowadays, we see why this is such an important issue to be addressing sooner rather than later. The important years are from 0 to 5 when their brains are still growing and immature. We need to give kids the opportunity to grow and mature enough to handle life’s stressors in their own time.

What are some of the sources of stress and anxiety in children?

  • a hurried and over-scheduled world

  • absence of healthy love and attachment

  • too much pressure to perform

  • stressed parents who rush

  • not enough calm, still time

  • poor sleep patterns

  • too much stimulation from TV, toys and adult commands

  • not enough consistency and routines

  • shaming language

  • threats of abuse and violence

  • too much social change

  • death and loss experiences

I sit here knowing that it’s all well and good to refer to lists of symptoms, causes and solutions, and the truth is that it can be so difficult to remain calm, ensure there’s lot’s of down time, always be patient and speak lovingly and be consistent with our kids.

I’ve gathered some tips from various sources on how we can create the kind of environment that will soothe, calm and relax our children…..

  • slow down - walk slower, talk slower and allow an extra 15 minutes to get children ready for and event (even going to school)

  • soothe more - reassure them that they are valued and safe and that mistakes and accidents are normal (this will trigger oxytocin and calm them) they will then go on to learn how to self-soothe

  • avoid a lot of overstimulation, too much chaos and too much change

  • allow physical comforters - soft toys, blankets etc

  • be a calm adult

  • remove clutter and mess around the home

  • ensure clear and healthy boundaries and routines around meal times, bed times, safety

  • take them out in the fresh air as often as possible

  • really listen to your children without interrupting

  • use calming aromatherapies

  • have regular quiet times without electronics

  • last, but not least, teach your kids a healthy breathing technique which will help soothe them if stressed. A simple one suggested by Maggie Dent is taking 3 sighs and pausing after the third one.

My husband reminded me that when we were children, the norm was that life changed in a fairly orderly and timely fashion (so it seemed anyway) and we were able to assimilate and learn to adjust without too much difficulty. Now, however, life, culture, technology are changing at what seems like a blinding speed, too fast for it to be assimilated and absorbed before it has changed again. It’s really no wonder that kids these days are shutting down or acting out as they can’t adjust fast enough to all that is going on around them.

Many experts are suggesting introducing coping strategies to children to prevent stress levels reaching “melt down” proportions. We need to be more proactive, rather than reactive and teach our up and coming generation mindfulness skills earlier rather than later and help them to thrive in the modern world. I keep reading about schools that are introducing meditation in place of detention. Brilliant!

I’m very excited to soon be offering a Mindfulness and Positive Psychology Program for children from Prep to Year 12. This program will help kids to build their emotional resilience and equip them to deal with the day to day stresses that life presents them. I’ll be teaching them life long coping skills such as understanding and recognising their own feelings, facing challenges and fears step by step and preventative strategies to help prevent stress build up, just to name a few.

I will be offering this program in June/ July and invite expressions of interest from you all. Please email me your details to be kept updated about this forthcoming program.

My next blog will be about self mastery. Join me!

Until then…….

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I love helping families feel happier! If you would like to chat about how I can help you, and you live in Melbourne, follow this link to my “Contact Me” page.

This piece is written with the intention of helping parents create happier and more resilient children and is subject to copyright. Please contact the author if you wish to publish elsewhere.