By Dina Zelden

Childhood was once a time of unstructured afternoons, hours of imaginative play, and even the occasional boredom.  Today’s children have nearly the complete opposite as their time is scheduled to the minute with an overload of school work and activities.  It’s no wonder many children are feeling anxious and stressed.  Believe it or not, of the diseases that afflict children, mental health disorders are the most common, according to the Child Mind Institute.  While it’s important to know the specific triggers and reactions to stress to which your child is prone, there are many effective strategies and techniques that may help.

Help your child gain control over the physical reactions to stress in their body.  One simple way to calm their body is with breathing techniques   Teach them to focus on belly breathing by placing their hand on their belly to feel it rise and fall with each inhale and exhale.  Help them calm their thoughts and emotions with mindfulness exercises.  Guided meditation is another way to help a stressed child feel less anxious.  It is also helpful to focus their thoughts on an enjoyable task which requires lots of concentration.  Puzzles, crafts, or another activity can help a child gain control over their thoughts while letting go of stress.

Consider the positive effects of fresh air and a change of scenery. Get them outside and moving.  Quick bursts of aerobic activities can help them feel more in control.  Time spent in nature can also calm frayed nerves.  Encourage your child to notice the beauty of the world around them.  Get them to use their senses by asking: What do you see, hear, and smell?  Another great mood changer is music.  Encourage your child to put on their favorite tunes and sing or dance along.  They will be smiling before they know it!

Be sure your child has a close friend or relative with whom they can share what is troubling them.  Talking about it can help them gain perspective and feel encouraged.  They may offer a new solution and help your child see the problem in a new light.  Playing with a family pet is another positive way to deal with stress.  Snuggling with a furry friend provides distraction and unconditional love.  Lastly, when it comes to connecting to others, never underestimate the power of a nice, long hug which assures children that you are by their side and there to help.

While chronic stress requires discussion with a health professional, many children can learn to successfully incorporate their favorite stress-busters into daily life.  And who knows, while sharing these ideas with your child, YOU may find yourself feeling better as well!

Be sure your child has a close friend or relative with whom they can share what is troubling them.

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