With the pressures of media and modernity, it’s tough to be a kid these days. Sure, some things are easier than when we grew up, like researching a paper online rather than using the Dewey decimal system. But with all the trappings of technology comes the burden of achievement. The world’s pace is faster, yet our human condition remains fragile. It’s enough to stress anyone out: Especially kids, and especially with the added strain of a global pandemic.
With good coping skills taught and modeled, children can learn they are capable of handling frustration and stress that comes their way.
Self-care for the stressed child and teen is more important than ever. As we work to navigate the dueling pressures of isolation and overstimulation, practice a few fundamentals of self-care:
Get enough sleep. In order to function well during the day, the groundwork must be laid at night by getting a good rest. Teens require about 8 – 10 hours of sleep, and younger kids need about 9 – 11 hours for optimal physical and emotional well-being.
Work it out. We’ve all become a little more sedentary in the last year and a half, and kids are no exception. It’s recommended that young people get at least an hour of activity every day, and in the case of exercise, more is usually better.
Talk it out. Getting a teen or child to open up about things that are bothering them can be a challenge. Realize that some kids might feel more comfortable talking to a counselor, teacher or doctor rather than their parents. The important thing is that they talk, and to a trusted source.
Write about it. There was a time when nearly every teen had a Dear Diary under their pillow. It’s time to bring it back into fashion! Many teens (and grown-ups, too) feel more comfortable processing their thoughts through writing rather than in a verbal conversation, and it’s a great exercise to stimulate creativity and self-reflection.
Unplug. Much has been said about not only the ill effects of social media, but screen time in general. It can be difficult to get a teen to put down a device for an extended period of time, but try to lead by example. Don’t check your phone at the dinner table or on family outings. Resist checking email from work after hours. Set device-free boundaries as a family and try to find another worthwhile activity to fill the space (or just take a nap!)
Our children look to us as models of behavior, whether they think they do or not, so it’s also keenly important to manage the stress of the adults in the household as well. We can take better care of our families if we take care of ourselves first.
With good coping skills taught and modeled, children can learn they are capable of handling the various frustrations and stress that comes their way. As parents, we might want to remove all the stress for them, but that’s not possible nor is it feasible. Instead, provide them with the right “tools in the toolbox” to cope and become their best selves.
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