Over the past month, our world has been turned upside down and inside out due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus). The abrupt changes and restrictions this pandemic has brought into our lives have no doubt left many of us feeling stressed out, anxious, and fearful for our future. The negative emotions that have been felt by adults have also taken their toll on our kids. Kids face the same fears and feel the same feelings as we do. However, they may not know how to talk through their emotions, let alone manage them to help reduce their stress. With all the makeup work from missing school, upcoming exams, financial pressures, and uncertainty regarding the future, kids need all the help, hope and encouragement they can get to overcome the stress in their lives.
What is stress? Stress is a response to pressure or a threat. Under stress, we may feel tense, nervous or on edge. How we respond to stress also takes its toll on us physically. Stress triggers a hormone called adrenaline that temporarily affects the nervous system. Therefore, how we behave on the outside is usually an indicator of what’s going on inside.
How to Teach Your Kids to Handle Stress
- Worry less.
I know what you’re thinking, that’s easier said than done! Of course, it is! However, many people have forgotten what worry is and how it negatively impacts our lives. Worry exaggerates our problems. Worry makes our problems appear bigger than they are. It’s like a shadow that gives the appearance of something being bigger than the object itself. Worry means to “choke” or to “strangle.” That is exactly what worry does. Worry chokes the very life out of us. Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m worried sick.” What they’re saying is true. Worrying will make you sick. It’s not what you eat that makes you sick; it’s what “eats you” that makes you sick.
Did you know humans are the only creatures on the planet that worry? Why? Because it’s unnatural. There is no such thing as “born worriers.” A baby is not born into the world as a worrier. The truth is, it’s a learned behavior. How? From watching and being around other people who worry. Most of us have had great teachers that have taught us how to worry; that is why we’re so good at it! The good news is, if worry is something we’ve learned how to do, it can also be something we can also unlearn. Therefore, we need to remind them that worry is a choice. One of the best ways to help kids manage their stress is to help them focus on their possibilities rather than their problems.
2. Show gratitude more.
According to Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury, BA with positivepsychology.com, the healthiest emotion we can have is an attitude of gratitude. A grateful attitude strengthens our immune system. Teaching our children to have a thankful spirit is also a remedy to depression because it shifts our focus off of ourselves and places it on other people. It’s impossible to be happy and ungrateful at the same time. The truth is, happy people are grateful people, and unhappy people are ungrateful people. Help your kids discover the joy and fulfillment in serving the needs of others. There are many charities and good causes right here in Lake Nona to serve. It not only brings a smile to those we serve, but it puts a smile on us in return.
3. Choose right thoughts daily.
One of the best disciplines we can help our kids establish in their lives is to learn how to choose what they fill their minds with. Why is this so important? Because our lives will always move in the direction of our strongest thoughts. Our thoughts will determine the amount of worry and stress we bring into our lives. The reason this is so important to teach our children is that every thought we think creates a neurochemical change in our body. If you think a positive thought, your body rewards you with a chemical called “dopamine.” It gives you a lift, a positive high. When dopamine sends that positive feeling to your brain, your brain says, “Oh, I like that; let’s think that thought again.” The more you think those positive thoughts, scientists call that a neurological pathway in your brain. If you think those same thoughts enough, they become the “default” thoughts in your brain. It’s like a strip of grass that has gotten worn because of the pathway caused by repeatedly walking over the same pathway.
To help our kids worry less, show more gratitude, and focus on the right thinking, we need to help them change the pathway their thoughts are traveling. The three areas mentioned above are best practices for stress-free living not only for our kids but for us as adults as well.
Rodney Gage is a family coach, author, speaker, and the founding pastor of ReThink Life Church that meets at Lake Nona High School. His passion is to help families stop drifting and start living with greater intention. To learn more, check out familyshift.com and rethinklife.com