Stress affects all of us, including kids. Learning how to deal with it is an important life skill. With this in mind, PAMP spoke with author and momtrepreneur Lori Lite of Stress Free Kids to get some insight on her approach.
Q: What is a stress-free kid?
A: A child who is empowered with actual tools, techniques and methods to face life and manage stress in a healthy manner. It is important to teach children to identify what stress is and how it feels.
Q: What messages do kids today get about stress?
A: The overall message that children are getting is that everybody’s stressed out; their parents are stressed out. And this is normal. The next message they get is how we handle it: anger, alcohol and drugs. It is our responsibility to expose our children to alternative healthy coping skills.
It’s good to model for your children. Mommy says, “I’m stressed. I’m going to sit down and breathe deeply.” Parents can identify how they feel and demonstrate stress management. Then kids will grow up with the tools to cope.
Surveys show that stress is the main reason for drug and alcohol abuse. If children learn to manage stress, they are better off later on, as teens, adults, etc. Children who practice relaxation techniques also score higher on tests.
Q: What stress-management techniques do you recommend for young children?
A: All of my stories and CDs work with four techniques: deep breathing, affirmations, progressive muscle relaxation and visualizing. These are research-based techniques. I just added the mom touch to turn them into stories for children. The best age to begin to introduce my products is 4-ish, but I get tons of emails about happy 3-year-olds and even some younger. Kids are never too young to listen. They just might not understand the techniques until they are a bit older.
Q: What about toddler meltdowns?
A: It is important for YOU to remain calm. Don’t get caught up in their energy. Remind yourself that their expressing feelings is a positive situation even though the expression might not be socially acceptable. This is NOT an emergency. Lots of times parents implode because they feel they’re bad parents.
What we’re talking about is very difficult for most parents to apply. Most parents get angry. Parents shouldn’t hold a grudge or punish kids for the outburst. Instead, they should encourage children to talk more about their feelings in the moment and then teach them how to move on.
After the meltdown, show them deep breathing and positive statements (make them up for your child) — e.g., I’m calm now; I’m moving on to something fun; I forgive my brother for taking my toy.
Keep in mind: Most meltdowns for young children are because they are tired or hungry. Don’t ask too much of your child. Children have simple needs that they want met. Don’t overschedule. If you do, you create stressed-out, angry children. Think about whether busy is good. Society says busy is good, but we need to evaluate that. Children need down time. So do adults!
Q: What can parents do to reduce family stress levels?
A: Remove your own stress. Unplug! It’s simple but mandatory. Spend time together away from screen and phones. Look each other in the eyes, and focus. When you have devices on, you’re not fully connected to children. And they know it.
Schedule connection and relaxation time. Fifteen minutes is a start. This creates bonding opportunities. When you take time to focus on relaxation, you get a better parenting experience. Kids want happy, calm parents. When you give them that, they feel more connected with you.
There are so many fun, simple things to do: Have a candle on the table for breakfast instead of lights. Go outside after dinner, and look at the stars. Surprise them. They love it! What you’re doing is teaching focus and how to stop chatter in the mind.
It’s an investment in your child’s future. Connecting now builds a foundation for later. You will be so happy when they’re teenagers! It’s too late to develop trust and connection when they’re teenagers. When you aren’t fully present, they won’t be either. They will grow up to be just like you, and you won’t like it later on.
Q: How did you get the idea for your first book?
A: The whole business started with it taking two hours to put my son (who was 4) to bed every night. At the time I was very sick from stress and was getting help to manage it. I wondered out of pure desperation if the techniques that worked for me would work for him. While lying down in bed with him, I made up a story about a boy and a bear that used deep breathing. It worked, and he fell asleep! My husband encouraged me to write it down, and a business was born.
Stress Free Kids founder Lori Lite has created a line of books and CDs designed to help children, teens and adults decrease stress, anxiety and anger. She is a mother of three children ages 15, 22 and 24.
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