By Guest Blogger Heather Adams
Children flourish in a world that feels safe and predictable. And we know that the world has been less than predictable in the past year. Believe it or not, even the youngest children are deeply affected by the emotions of people around them, both good and bad, and can sense the stress that many of us are facing as parents.
So how can you help your young children to manage stress in a world that seems full of it? One way is to Maximize Love, Manage Stress. Maximize Love, Manage Stress is one of The Basics – five free, easy, science-based things all parents and caregivers can do each day to help young children grow and thrive.
You can help children Maximize Love, Manage Stress by teaching them to name their feelings. Let them understand that it’s okay to be scared, angry and upset. As parents and caregivers, it’s critical we help children learn to manage their emotions and create a safe space for them where they always feel loved.
Some ways to Maximize Love, Manage Stress for your child are:
- Hold, kiss and cuddle your child. Young children crave love and attention, and there is no such thing as spoiling them with too much love.
- Respond to your child’s needs. Watch and listen for clues if they are hungry, tired or scared. Do your best to provide them with what they need, but also put words to their feelings.
- Have a routine. Settle into a consistent schedule for daily activities like feeding, naps, bathing, reading and bedtime.
- Encourage your child to try new things. Everything is new for a young child. Follow their lead when they seem interested in something. Be supportive and encouraging as they take chances. Reassure them as they try to figure things out.
It’s just as important that we Maximize Love, Manage Stress for ourselves, otherwise it’s really hard to be a positive parent or caregiver. Remember to take time for yourself and respond to your own stress, as well as your child’s.
Here are some tips to help you manage:
- Acknowledge your own feelings. Don’t brush them aside – work through them. We are in a global pandemic and many people are facing financial uncertainty. it’s okay to be scared, worried or frustrated.
- Reach out to friends and family for both moral support (encouragement, affirmation) and practical support, such as watching your child to give you time to focus on yourself. This may be a bit harder to do during the pandemic, but carving out some “me time” is still critical.
- Go easy on yourself. Life can feel overwhelming and we all make mistakes. Focus on the big picture and be gentle with yourself when things don’t go as planned.
- Seek professional help if you need it. There’s no shame in asking for help – all parents need extra support from time to time.
As a parent, I know that it can be easy to focus entirely on your child’s needs and neglect your own. But it’s just as important for you to Maximize Love, Manage Stress for yourself – in the end, caring for yourself benefits your child. For more tips on how to Maximize Love, Manage Stress for you and your child and to learn the other Basics, visit guilfordbasics.org.
Heather Adams is the director of engagement and literacy initiatives for Ready for School, Ready for Life, a collaborative effort to build a connected, innovative system of care for Guilford County’s youngest children and their families, which advocates for The Basics Guilford.
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