The term “stress” was coined by Hans Selye in 1936, who defined it as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”. Our bodies are wired in such a way that they react to stress with a “fight-or-flight” response. A little bit of daily stress can be beneficial as longs as it’s followed by a relaxation response, but chronic stress can lead to chronic disease.
Unfortunately these days, children are growing up in a very fast-paced, highly competitive, demanding society. Kids are as vulnerable to stress as their parents or even more. If they don’t learn early in life how to relax and manage stress, their little bodies will be in a constant “fight-or-flight” response. Children in “fight” response to stress can be argumentative, aggressive, and defiant while children in “flight” response are withdrawn, quiet, or show lack of motivation.
Here are a couple of techniques that kids can learn to manage their stress. Remember, that like us, kids are exposed to stress daily so they need to de-stress daily.
- My #1 stress-management technique for kids is exercise. Organized sports are great but sometimes can actually increase children’s stress, especially for little ones who are very competitive, so free play is the best! Let kids roam (safely!) outdoors!
- Breathing techniques: teach kids to take deep, slow belly breaths. The “4-7-8” breathing techniques is really to teach and kids love it. Breath in to the count of 4, hold for 7, breath out slowly to the count of 8.
- Meditation: children as young as 5-6 years of age can learn how to meditate. There are different types of meditations that kids can experiment with and use the one that they like. It is easier for a child to build and maintain a daily meditation practice if at least one adult in the household meditates regularly. Meditation is the perfect anti-dote to stress as it “rewires” the brain to be less reactive to stress.