Preparing Your Child to Thrive MentallyAugust 30, 2021
With a new school year beginning and social stress on the rise, it’s important that we set the atmosphere for our kids to not only thrive academically and physically but also mentally. We may be wondering, “What are signs of anxiety in a child?” In fact, I’m sure you’re wondering what we can do to assist our kids, as well as ourselves, with mental challenges that we may face during this school year? Here are some things to consider:
Accepting the Reality of Child Stress
Negative and positive forms of stress will always be with us because stress is defined as the way our body responds to a challenge. New challenges come in many forms, whether that be the birth of a new baby, a new job, a hard class we need to pass, or even trying to open a jar with a really tight lid. That being said, the last two years have presented an enormous amount of negative stress on not only our children but on society as a whole. It is imperative as parents that we allow our children to relieve their stress in positive ways that will help them and not harm them mentally or physically. It’s also important that we allow them to express what their challenges are, comfort them, and then guide them in the right direction with love and confidence.
Some powerful stress relievers are:
- Good conversation about your day
- Good, healthy comfort foods
- Sound sleep
- Lots of outdoor play!
Supplements to consider for stress relief are:
(Consult your doctor before taking any supplements or OTC medications.)
Wondering how to help your child with anxiety or stress?
Rein in the Information Overload
When teaching and discussing current events, Trust in truth. Make sure sources you are teaching from, listening to, and repeating are based on truth, meaning they have evidence to back up the story being told, or that science has proven it with evidence-based studies. If the evidence is unavailable, stick with facts only when dealing with children. Why? When it comes to current events, allowing your child’s mind to be filled constantly with differing stories confuses the child and causes undue anxiety and confusion. They depend on YOU to set the WORLD straight for them as a child because YOU are the Parent. Be empowered and confident in your role. You’re doing an amazing job!! See this great article from Psychology Today about Mental Health and Information Overload.
If you haven’t already, you may want to consider incorporating critical thinking skills into your curriculum. With older children, you can use these new skills to discuss the news that your family listens to. These skills help you and your child to analyze whether you are hearing ideology, fact, or fiction. If you are not familiar with critical thinking, you may click here for further information. Critical thought exercises empower children to think, reason independently, and assess information that comes to them from the outside so that they can make better decisions and solve problems for themselves when you are not present! That’s empowering and instills self-confidence! There are a lot of fun puzzles and games that incorporate critical thinking skills to fill family’s afternoons and evenings with fun as an alternative to movies, the internet, and electronic gaming. Some of our classic favorites are Catan games, Ticket to Ride, Sudoku, Jigsaw Puzzles, and Logic Dots.
The Importance of Positivity
When dealing with young children, do not talk incessantly about gloom and doom. Kids ages 4-12 are very impressionable and do not understand a lot of abstract thinking. They are still very much concrete thinkers, meaning they take things you say literally. The bits and pieces of disturbing information and false messages they may take in could stay with them for long periods of time. Repeating negative information can instill fear and anxiety into impressionable hearts and minds. See this link for cognitive ages and stages. Music with a positive message is always a great alternative to news, especially for younger children.
When dealing with teenagers, it is important to be positive about their future. Like young children, they are very impressionable and although they have the capacity to understand at a deeper level, they tend to be self-absorbed and may become depressed by a “lack of hope” in their lives. Find good news to share with them about the future. There’s still plenty of it out there, no matter what the headlines read! Do your research. Remember your kids are the future. Let’s make it bright for them!
We also need to exude positivity instead of negativity in our attitudes, words, and actions with our teens. This solidifies relationships. Everyone loves a ray of sunshine! A raincloud is NOT a fun person to be around. Studies on positivity and mental health are astounding! Here’s an article about the physical and mental perks of positivity from the Mayo Clinic for you to ponder.
Outside Assistance and an Atmosphere of Acceptance
If worry is causing you or your family members to lose sleep, experience panic attacks, or have depression, consider positive ways to relieve worries, such as tapping into your faith at a deeper level, seeing a therapist or a counselor, or talking things over with a good friend or a pastor.
Ask yourself if your child feels comfortable sharing what is on their mind. Do you have a “no-judgment zone” policy when they share? If not, you might want to try it, and also come equipped with a zipper for your mouth. As a parent, it’s often hard to just listen without interjecting too quickly. When they finish talking, as the adult in the room, you should be able to assess emotions they are experiencing such as fear, worry, anxiety, confusion, etc. and first offer comfort, empathy, and assurance that everything will be okay, even if it’s not going to be right away. Then, when it’s your turn, impart some wisdom, which could present itself in the form of facts, truth from your faith perspective, a story about how you went through a similar thing and how you overcame, or a story they can relate to that reassures them that they are not alone. If you don’t know, tell them that together you will figure it out!
While academics and physical health are important, the mental health of family members is just as important. Good mental health helps us to learn and succeed in all aspects of life. Stress is certainly challenging us in our world right now, but when we are equipped with the knowledge to counter mental health issues that might arise, we are empowered. Our confidence increases as parents and our children will not only survive but thrive. Be empowered and prepared for 2021, parents! It’s going to be a great school year!
More About the Author:
Stephanie Wilkins is a board-certified nutrition counselor and founder of “No More Band-Aids” which is a ministry of encouragement and evidence-based research for caretakers and those suffering from chronic health conditions. Stephanie is also a veteran homeschool mom of 21 years and has had the unique opportunity to have lived in four different countries and four different states. Stephanie’s passions are homeschooling, travel, health and wellness, and her faith.
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