Stress Management Know-How!
When it comes to stress in children, relaxation techniques that work for adults may not be easy enough for that child to implement. Children possess an innate ability to visualize and use their imaginations.
These are great tools that can be effective in helping them relieve stress. I have found that storytelling is very effective in helping children deal with many issues they may be experiencing because they can visualize the story and use their imagination to relate the story to themselves.
It is an indirect way of pointing out to the child his or her own struggles without putting too much pressure on the child. Sometimes, when parents try to sit down and have a "serious" conversation with children, it only stresses the child out more out of a sense of being scrutinized or reprimanded. Telling a story the child can relate to is a better way of addressing stress.
What you'll find in this section on stress in children are different stories designed specifically for helping children ages 2-10 years old deal with stress. The stories tackle various dilemmas and are solution-focused.
Caregivers should ask the child to close his or her eyes while the story is read to them and asked to imagine the characters and places described in the story.
Once the story is finished, this is a good opportunity for caregivers to talk about what happened in the story with their child and help the child problem solve relevant issues that might be going on.
"I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious."
~ Albert Einstein
No one is immune to stress. We all carry the burden of some form of stress. Unfortunately, children may not be able to fully communicate what's troubling them, or even understand it. We are living in stressful times. Parents who hold jobs outside the home are wondering how much longer they'll be employed. The problem: children share in their parents' stress in addition to their own personal growing pains.
Stress in children can take on many forms. Some may be dealing with separation anxiety when her parents leave for work. Some may be seeing more of their parents due to job loss. Some may be having trouble going off to school for the first time (another form of separation anxiety.) Bullying, learning disabilities, poor marriages, lofty parental expectations, lack of attention, and fear of the dark/bedtime are some causes of stress in children.
I feel this is an issue which requires the efforts of all: parents, children, professionals and yes, the insight of outsiders. Though I am not a parent, I was once a child and certainly have my own retrospective. Stress in children is real. When a child speaks, listen. In addition, we all need to be mindful of our words and behavior in the presence of children. They see and hear more than we think.
I feel I have spent too much of my life being afraid. I wasted a great deal of precious time (some alone, some in the presence of loved ones) being afraid. In hindsight, I wish I had been able to better communicate my stress as a child.
I've begun a series of children's short stories which I hope will facilitate communication between parents and children. I also hope these stories teach children to confront and overcome their fears sooner rather than later in life. I believe that for every problem there is a solution. I know from personal experience that "small" childhood issues can grow up into adult problems. I also know that it feels great to overcome fear. Join me in the next installment as I introduce parents, children and children at heart to the enchanted world of Captain Nesty Von Resty!
Fasten your seatbelts…
- Ted Stefanski
Story 1: An Introduction to Children and Stress Bedtime Stories
Story 2: William and the Magical Nautilus (Fear of Sharks and Overcoming Challenges)
Story 3: Abigail's "Sheepless" Night (Trouble Falling Asleep)
Story 4: The Last Jar of Jam (Helping with Children and Grief)
The Starfish Story
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied, “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!” ~
~Adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)~
This simple story serves as a good reminder that:
• YOU are worth time and effort.
• Maybe you can't help everyone, but you can help someone.
• Goals can be achieved one mini step at a time.