By Lori Lite / Stress Free Kids
Military families are at risk of developing secondary PTSD. Children in military families are exposed to stress levels that could be considered toxic according to The American Academy of Pediatrics. The National Center for Child Traumatic Stress notes that, “Military children experience unique challenges related to military life and culture. These include deployment-related stressors and reintegration.” Military children live with the constant fear of losing a parent, parental separation, moving and making new friends, all while living in a household with one often overloaded parent holding down the fort. The dynamics of welcoming a returning parent that has been injured physically or mentally is real. Children often mimic behaviors of a returning parent with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Even an at home parent struggling with anxiety can have a significant impact on their children’s well-being. Managing stress as a family needs to be a high priority.
Moms, dads, children, and teenagers can take steps to handle stress in a healthy manner. Visit our Military Families Page.
- Be aware that children are sensitive to stress and they can pick up on your anxiety. Fear and worry can quickly become the focus. Let children see you apply stress management techniques and demonstrate self-care. Self-care is a gift you give yourself and your family. Stress is contagious, but so is relaxation.
- Be patient and talk fears and concerns through to a positive outcome. Much unnecessary anxiety is due to expecting a negative outcome. You and your children deserve to expect a positive outcome. Do this for yourself and your children.
- Acknowledge your child’s feelings even if they seem silly to you. What seems minor to an adult can be monumental to a child. Fill in the blanks for children. Let them know that you have a plan and address their concerns in an optimistic and respectful manner.
- Commit to spending fun downtime with your family. Laughing and bonding helps children to feel safe, loved and less anxious. You too will receive stress reducing joy!
4 proven techniques to help you and your children manage stress:
- Use affirmations or positive statements to counteract stress. Teach your children to take a break and say, “I am calm. I am relaxed. I am safe. Daddy is coming home soon.” Write a positive statement and have your child carry it in their pocket for the day. Put a list in the back of their school notebook for them to access at any time.
- Create a visualization or a happy thought. Create a happy thought that children can “go to” when stressed or worried. Develop a short story or scene that your child can think of when they are fearful or anxious. It can be as simple as hugging a parent or as complex as sliding down rainbows into gold colored water.
- Practice controlled breathing. Taking slow deep breaths can help parents and children lower anxiety and anger. Any age child, teen, or adult including those with special needs; Autism, Aspergers, ADHD, ADD, SPD, and PTSD can learn to bring their energy level down and feel in charge of themselves. Be the breathing leader and let your family see you…. Breathe in 2,3,4 and out 2,3,4…In 2,3,4 and ahhhh
- Use progressive muscle relaxation to help your child to fall asleep. Relax your child’s mind and body by telling various muscle groups to relax. Start with your child’s feet and work your way up to their head or reverse the order. After a few tries your child will be able to use this technique on their own. “I am going to relax my legs. I will relax my legs. My legs are relaxing. My legs are relaxed.” For a variation, try active progressive muscular relaxation. Tighten various muscle groups and relax. “Hold, hold, hold…..Ahhhhh…” Your turn next!
All of the above mentioned techniques are easy to introduce to your family with the Stress Free Kids line of books, CDs and Lesson Plans. We invite you to explore our site to learn more about how you can introduce your family to stress management.
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.