by Lori Lite
“The mind and body affect each other. Unmanaged stress can affect children physically, socially and emotionally. It is worth exposing children to relaxation techniques.” — Patricia Arcari, PhD, RN, Associate in Medicine, Harvard Medical School/ Mind Body Medical Institute.
Quick stress check:
- Are you cramming more activities than usual into a day?
- Are you saying “yes” to things you wish you hadn’t?
- Are you sleeping less?
- Do you find yourself yelling at your kids more?
- Are you entertaining or visiting with family and friends?
- Are you spending more money that usual?
- Is there a change in your routine
- Are you traveling?
- Are you getting sick more often?
A “yes” answer to any of the above questions indicates an increase in stress. If you are experiencing an increase in stress then so are your children.
As a parent or educator it is important to acknowledge that children experience stress. “Stress and Your Child”, an article published by the American Academy of Pediatrics points out that “many parents believe that their school-age children are unaware of the stresses around them and are somehow immune to them. Yet children are very sensitive to the changes around them.” Change whether it is positive or negative has an impact on children.
Change, rates a high stress score on the Holmes and Rahe stress scale. This evaluation has been used as a stress measurement tool since it was first published in 1967 in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research by Dr’s. Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe. It assigns point values to different life events and changes. A higher score indicates a higher level of stress. Holiday schedules are usually very different from the rest of the year. This alone presents change. Christmas is assigned 12 points where as an increase in arguments between parents is assigned 47 points. How many parents argue more during the holidays? Change, whether positive or negative still registers as stress. Dr. Steven Glicksman, a child and adolescent psychologist in Manhattan states that “children are very vulnerable to stress.”
Dr. Benson of the Mind Body Medical Institute states in his national best selling book, “The Relaxation Response” that 60 to 90% of visits to the doctor’s office are related to stress. How many of us end up taking our children to the doctor’s office during the holidays?
Colds are contagious and so is stress. Children are affected by stress of their own and pick up on family stresses. This includes holiday stress. So how do we promote calm in our family and increase our chances of staying healthy during the holidays?
The Mental Health Association recommends counteracting stress by maintaining a positive outlook, focusing on activities that take your mind off your worries and taking time to relax. Sounds easy but how many of us or our children know how to use an actual relaxation technique? How many children know the mechanics of how to maintain a positive outlook? How many children use over stimulating TV as a way to take their mind off their worries?
Instead of telling your child to go “calm down” this holiday season, I invite you to give them the tools they need to manage stress and anxiety. Introduce your children to breathing, visualizations, and affirmations during this holiday season.
- Prepare your family for the holidays by living life in balance
- Say “NO” so you are not overextended or overscheduled
- Get plenty of sleep and eat nutritious meals
- Schedule downtime for you and your children
- Talk situations through to a positive outcome
- Leave plenty of time for travel to avoid rushing
- Introduce positive thinking and affirmations
- Fully connect and be present with your teen and child
- Ask friends and family to bring parts of the meal
- Relax your expectations and visualize interacting peacefully
- Quiet your mind by focusing on a color or a feeling for 30 seconds. (Visualizing exercise)
- Focus on your breathing…BREATHE IN 2,3,4 and …..ahhhhhh….
You do not need to have a PhD in Psychology or a certification in Yoga. All you need to do is read a relaxation book to your child that shows them how to manage their own energy, stress and anxiety. Play a guided imagery CD that’s creates calming images. Sit down and write affirmations with your child. Make it fun by hiding your positive, calm statements in your pockets or under your pillows. Take time to look in your children’s eyes as they speak to you. Try it for 10 minutes a day. Sit still and hold their hand as you listen to holiday music. Watch the ripple effect calm has as it makes its way through your family. You will be inspired to see how easy it is for your child to apply breathing, visualizations, and affirmations to their lives.
I believe that children have the ability to be active participants in creating their own healthy, calm, peaceful lives. Children want to feel calm and in control of their minds and bodies. With a little help from you they can. Next time you notice that the hustle and bustle of the holidays are stressing you and your children, take a moment to breathe, affirm or visualize and get ready to feel good!
The Indigo Dreams CD Series is designed to help children, teens, and parents manage stress using all of the above mentioned techniques of breathing, visualizations, positive statements, and muscle relaxation. Family packages are available.
Stress Free Kids founder Lori Lite has created a line of books and CDs designed to help children, teens, and adults decrease stress, anxiety, and anger. Ms. Lite’s books, CDs, and lesson plans are considered a resource for parents, psychologists, therapists, child life specialists, teachers, and yoga instructors. Lori is a certified children’s meditation facilitator and Sears’ Manage My Life parenting expert. For more information visit Stress Free Kids and for daily advice follow Lori on Twitter and Facebook.