Stress not only affects the quality of a child’s life but recent research shows that it can affect their health and brain in the long term. It can also have an incredibly detrimental impact on the relationship with parents, and the family dynamic.
Boston, Massachusetts (PRWEB) October 10, 2013
Over the past few years, the issue of school related stress and anxiety in adolescents has become far more prominent. The numbers of students who are stressed out, or on medication for anxiety and depression, is at an all time high. Stress not only affects the quality of a child’s life in the moment, recent research shows that it can affect their health and brain in the long term. It can also have an incredibly detrimental impact on the relationship with parents, and the family dynamic as a whole.
The Journal of Neuroscience found that, in children with chronic stress, the brain area associated with memory is smaller, and their cognitive abilities are negatively affected. Another study, by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, suggests childhood stress could take years off the life of an individual.
In a recent 2011 survey at Lexington High School, one of the top academic schools in Massachusetts, 40% of students reported that they were under “a lot of stress” and the school has implemented “stress reduction days” to help combat the problem. What’s going on here?
The founder and director of Evolve Tutoring of Massachusetts and a professional with two decades of working with adolescents, Alan Houghtaling has spent the past few years developing practical strategies to minimize this phenomenon. As he explains, “This is an issue that must be addressed. At Evolve, we are committed to helping students to grow academically, while also supporting and encouraging their development as people. Part of that is helping them cope with the stress level that school and adolescence bring.” As a result, Houghtaling is reaching out to parents to share 4 practical but important strategies to help reduce childhood stress, and by extension improve the relationship parents have with their children.
4 Strategies For Reducing Stress in Your Children and Improving the Relationship:
Don’t minimize or be dismissive: It’s important to remember that what they are feeling is real. Even though the way in which they communicate their stress can be dramatic or unproductive at times, it doesn’t make it any less true for them. They are already hyper-sensitive to critiquing by parents, and are looking for ways to shut you out, so being dismissive or treating it like it’s not a big deal is the last thing you want to do.
Listen: Instead of being quick to offer suggestions or direction, just listen to them voice their frustration. It’s important that they feel “heard”, and respected in these moments. Sometimes it’s even helpful, after they are done talking or venting, to actually ask them if it’s ok for you to say something, or if they are in the space for you to offer a suggestion. If they say yes, great. But if they say no, honor that as well.
Bring Curiosity and Mindfulness to your interactions: Curiosity is a great tool to use in life, and in our tutoring we use it a great deal. As parents though, sometimes our frustration leads us to asking either rhetorical or loaded questions. Things like, “when are you going to do your homework?, what’s wrong with you, or why don’t you study harder?”, are not questions that come from being curious. Instead, be mindful of how you frame questions, doing so in a way where you create the possibility of an answer that could lead to a conversation. This can be challenging, but is well worth the effort.
Offer simple expressions of support: It’s important that they feel supported, and not just when things are challenging. Let them know that you love them, and are proud of who they are, outside of academics. Maybe it’s after you listen to how stressed they are, or while they are casually watching TV, texting a friend, or eating dinner. You would be surprised how an out of the blue pat on the back, hug, or kiss on the forehead, followed with a simple “I’m proud of you”, can influence your child and positively impact your relationship with them.