In a time when social distancing and wearing masks has become the new norm, stress levels among kids and their parents has undoubtedly increased. In Part 1 of “Help for Stressed Out Families,” we learned about the effect parental stress can have on kids, even though most parents don’t even realize it. In today’s article, Dr. Kara Powell will focus on ways parents can help their children better deal with stress.
(Published in Family Magazine May 2011 2nd Issue)
Dr. Kara Powell
How Can We Do a Better Job Helping our Kids with Their Stress?
In another good news/bad news dichotomy in this breaking research about stress, the good news is that the vast majority of tweens (86 percent) and teens (74 percent) surveyed said that they felt very or somewhat comfortable talking to their parents about the things that cause them stress. Here’s the not-so-good news: Only half have talked to their parents about things they are worried or stressed about in the past month. 6 In other words, our kids are open to talking to us, but it’s not happening very often.
While we may or may not have control over the factors that contribute to our stress right now, we can change the ways we talk about stress in our homes. The following suggestions can help your family both discuss stress and become a refuge from it.
1. Explain what you are noticing in your kid. If your child seems distracted or distraught, or if they are withdrawing into media more than normal, let them know that you notice the change. Try opening up a conversation with your kid by sharing something like, “I notice something seems to be on your mind. Anything you want to talk about?”
2. Ask questions. Sometimes a more direct approach is needed. Without badgering your kid, ask them how it’s going with their friends, with their homework, and with their various activities. Consider raising the question about stress directly by asking: “If you were going to be stressed about something right now, what would it be?”
3. Share your own experience with stress as a teenager. Think back to middle school and high school. What caused you stress then? How did you handle that stress? If you tended to get stomach aches or headaches, and your child is experiencing the same, let them know that you can relate.
4. Make feelings a regular part of your discussions. In our family, not a day goes by that I don’t ask one of my kids this question: “How did that make you feel?” Whether something exciting or distressing happens to my kids, I want them to learn to put words to all of their feelings, including stress and disappointment.
5. Play the “What will happen next?” game. Often kids’ stress stems from a fear of the unknown, or projecting the worst case scenario. To help kids realistically contemplate future consequences, try a great game that a friend of mine played with her kids as they were growing up called the “What will happen next?” game. She gave various scenarios to her kids (whether real or hypothetical), often while they were driving from one hockey practice to the next, and asked them: What will happen next? By helping your child understand the logical consequences of their choices, you both give them more of a sense of control and help them identify wise choices ahead of time.
6. See if the stressor can be removed. At times, we as parents can best aid our child by helping them remove the stressor. If they are too busy, help them choose one activity to eliminate. If their friends are toxic, help them identify a few other kids they might want to get to know. Brainstorm with them what they can change to gain greater peace of mind and schedule.
7. Get more support. For most of us, the more stressed we are, the less we connect with other people. Yet one of the worst ways to tackle stress is to try to go it alone. Personally and as a family, tap into the power of community to support you during your high-stress times. Whether it’s scheduling a regular phone call or coffee meeting with a friend to be honest about life, or doing something fun together with another family, involve others in your pursuit of lowering your family stress.
Just yesterday I said to my husband, “I think about half of good parenting is having enough energy.” I know I am my worst as a parent when I am stressed and tired. So while beyond the scope of the research, perhaps one of the best ways you and I can help our kids is to reduce our own stress.
Maybe, just maybe, peace in the home starts with us.
1. Which of the suggestions made in this article would be most helpful in your family?
2. What can you do to reduce your own stress this month? How could you create more space for family “downtime”?
The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family: A Leadership Fable About Restoring Sanity To The Most Important Organization In Your Life, Patrick Lencioni
Adrenaline and Stress, Archibald Hart
Silence and Solitude (Fuller Youth Institute)
Activating and Resting (Fuller Youth Institute)
6. American Psychological Association, “2010 Stress in America Report”
©2011 Fuller Youth Institute
Article was used by permission by the Fuller Youth Institute
About the author: Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute and a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary.
As we read in the article above, simply listening to and talking with your kids is a big part of helping them manage stress. Consider the “Action Steps” above to personally apply Dr. Kara Powell’s points to help de-stress your own family life. Though changes from the pandemic has caused stress in our families, we can take the necessary steps to regain peace in our homes and strengthen our family relationships.
Presence Hong Kong Limited provides tools and training to help individuals and families apply Christian and family values to their everyday lives. Copyright © 2011 Fuller Youth Institute. Article was used by permission by the Fuller Youth Institute. Do not repost.