Many adults may look at children and long to trade places with them, believing their lives to be so much more simple and less stressful than their own. The truth is, however, that while children may experience very different kinds of stressors than adults, their lives can actually be just as stressful as those of adults.
In fact, children are also far more attuned to the mental and emotional states of the adults around them than either the child or adult might be aware of. That means that if you are under a lot of stress, it is probably stressing your child out far more than you might be aware of.
Adults have a hard enough time learning how to relax and unwind but children aren’t even always aware they are stressed, let alone that they too may need to find ways to relax and unwind after a long, stressful day. Here are five ways to help your child unwind after a stressful day.
1. Learn What Best Helps Them Relax
By the time most parents are adults, they have a pretty good sense of what helps them relax and de-stress.
For some, it may be a long, hot bath, for others, it may be a glass of wine or a small amount of alcohol, while still others may go for a long run or do a hard workout. Similarly, when some people are stressed out, they just want to hide out and be alone while others seek out the largest party or gathering they can find.
What it means to relax and unwind looks very different for different people. It is very important to not assume your child relaxes the same way you do. While you may find it relaxing to go out for a long run and clear your head, they may find it more relaxing to sit quietly and read a book.
If you don’t help them find the thing that helps them relax best, you could actually just be piling more stress on them.
2. Go With The Flow
While it is important to understand that your child’s needs are different than yours, they also want to make you happy.
If you give them a choice of activities, they will often try to pick the thing you like to do best. One of the best ways to help them find what they like to do best is to do a number of different “unwinding” activities with them.
This can include things like sitting and reading their favorite book together, going on a long walk or even just having an impromptu dance party. Over time, if you pay attention, you can help them discover the way they unwind the best.
3. Understand The Difference Between Unwinding And Having Fun
No matter how stressed out your child may be, they will always be up for something that sounds fun to them. While there is nothing wrong with having fun, it is important to understand the difference between what amps them up and what genuinely helps them unwind.
Unwinding can certainly be about letting off some steam with physical activity but sometimes kids just need to talk or even just be around someone that is calm themselves and helps them relax. Remember, you can’t always be everything to your children and you don’t have to be.
Perhaps they have a grandmother, aunt or neighbor that they just seem calmer and more relaxed around. Don’t be afraid to call in the cavalry if you are not the person that helps your child be calmer and more relaxed.
4. Take Care Of Your Own Needs
It cannot be stressed enough that your stress levels will have a direct effect on your child’s. Any small, irritating or annoying things they do tend to become more magnified the more stress you are under.
Those minor irritations can provoke a response from you that is significantly out of proportion to the actual irritation factor of their actions. As much as you might apologize after the fact, once you explode on your child, the damage is already done.
The best way to help your child manage their stress levels is to manage your own first. This might mean calling in reinforcements to take them off your hands for a while or even simply parking them in front of an iPad for a bit while you do some regrouping of your own.
In an age with so much judgment from social media, parents can actually sometimes feel guilty for taking the time they need to address their own stress. While you do want to make sure and childproof your child’s electronics, there is nothing wrong with letting electronics entertain your child for a bit while you take care of you. After all, chances are you grew up watching TV while your parents were off doing the same thing.
5. Don’t Underestimate “Adult” Activities
Many adults have discovered the power of activities like yoga and meditation to help them relax, unwind and ease stress. The same things that work for adults also work for kids.
In fact, starting kids off doing yoga at an early age while their bodies are still most flexible can help them develop healthy habits early on that can stand them in good stead later when they aren’t quite so young and flexible.
Similarly, there are all kinds of guided meditation tools for kids that can give them something healthy to do while you take the time you need to work on your own stress levels.
From learning how to deal with a particularly mean bully to just not being able to master basic math, kids still have a great number of stressors in their lives. As much as parents may want to solve all of their children’s problems for them, the truth is, you can’t.
What you can do is teach them how to manage their stress levels. Which you also can’t do until you learn to manage your own.