Parenting: Kids and Stress - How to keep it down
September 7, 2011 (WPVI) -- Every family has ups and downs. And every child has good days and bad days. A 2010 survey by the American Psychological Association shows that 1 in 5 children worry a lot. They may be stressing out over a test at school, not doing their chores, having a bad dream, arguing with their friends or siblings...or it could be something much bigger like their parents' divorce, an alcoholic parent, abuse, a death in the family. It helps to have children talk to a therapist about the big problems. Even a school counselor can provide free advice on how to cope, if you can't afford a regular psychologist.
But as an everyday approach to managing and lowering stress, Dr. David Palmiter, author of WORKING PARENTS/THRIVING FAMILIES, says parents can set up a stress-free environment and promote it by doing predictable rituals with their children. It's like building a buffer-zone around their emotions. So even if there's a hurricane outside, if a family pet gets hit by a car, or if their best friend moves away (and even with the heavier problems), they have a cushion of stability to fall back on. From the kids' perspective that means talking themselves out of a stressful time by saying "No matter what else is falling apart, I still go to the same school, do the same sports, go to the same church, have the same holiday rituals, etc."
Dr. Froma Walsh, psychologist says, "Family rituals store and convey each family's identity and beliefs facilitate life cycle transitions... mark major milestones, and restore continuities...and heal any trauma."
What kind of rituals do we mean? They range from the small things to the large, but you can pick and choose from the lists provided by Palmiter to create your child's own emotional safety net:
Saying hellos and good-byes
Bedtime/bath time routines
Caring for pets
Pizza or game night, movie night
Going out to eat
Playing sports/doing art together
Going to church
Going to a local park or mall
Going to the library or for a walk\bicycling
Going to a local museum
Watching TV with discussion
Looking through photo albums
Going to sporting events
Watching your child in their activities at school, in sports, in art/drama
Putting up seasonal decorations
Sharing holiday meals
Going to the annual city parade
Creating a family Web site /writing a family newsletter
Having birthday parties/dinners/hanging banners/making a birthday breakfast
Rewarding your child for a good report card or important deadline they meet (finishing a project, reading a long book, etc.)
Letting the kids help celebrate mom and dad's big days: anniversaries, promotions at work, etc.
The goal is to create the dialogue in your child's mind: "We always do---this ritual on ---this day ---when this happens." As Palmiter says, "If children have these 'We always do' in place, they are less vulnerable to the toxic effects of stress because their world seems more predictable, safe and under control.
Enjoy creating your family's rituals.
monica malpass parenting reports, parenting, monica malpass
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