Stress Is Not Your Child's Friend

By Donna Kostiew

It’s September and by now our children are back in school, which means back to business for all of us. Academics, sports, clubs and activities … it’s all back. Personally, I am excited for my two daughters. One is soon on her way to high school and the other just left for college. They are genuinely good girls, both very smart and hardworking, both in the process of overcoming significant health challenges, and both as polite as can be. They have the “typical” school friendships; a few that are solid and true, and a few that are about as random as what is listed on the cafeteria menu. But there is one relationship, a common presence, that both of my daughters do share. I don’t particularly like this presence though because it constantly invades their space, their time, and often steals their joy. The name of this presence is Stress, and honestly, I would really like to see this relationship come to an end.

The Demands That are Placed Upon our Children

Are we unintentionally hurting the quality of life for those we are here to nurture? Are we demanding more from our children than what was ever asked of us? When does enough simply become enough? Stress comes in many forms throughout our lives. It is insidious and invisible, but the effects it leaves in its wake rarely go unnoticed. We need to teach our children how to recognize and identify where it comes from, and how to effectively navigate the stresses in their daily life.

Stress in Schools

It’s impossible to live in a stress-free world and it should be noted that some stress is good. Good stress may drive your child to achieve a higher grade on an exam, or motivate them to perform their best on the field or in the concert hall. Alternatively, bad stress would cause your child to feel that a situation is impossible or that they are unable to meet the demands placed upon them. It can bring about anxiety and depression, and issues such as obesity and substance abuse. Stress in schools can begin as early as first grade and its causes are all encompassing:

  • Standardized testing

  • Homework load

  • Relationships

  • Competition to be selected (sports teams, student council, drama team, etc.)

  • College admissions process

Strategies to Help Navigate Stress

Finding a healthy level of stress can be attained. Parents need to be the example, and should set parameters for their children that encourage moderation. For instance:

  • Talk with your child about their feelings

  • Brainstorm with them to find things they can do to feel better

  • Make sure they are getting enough sleep and are not overscheduled

  • Be careful how you define success and communicate that to your children

  • Limit media time

  • Stay connected and increase family time

We certainly know the high price we pay for the stress in our lives as adults. By choosing to be proactive, we can eliminate some of the stress that plagues our children.

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