IS SOME STRESS GOOD FOR CHILDREN?

Monday, June 13, 2011


Are you sometimes stressed? .... Of course the answer is yes! We experience some level of stress every day. As adults we have learned techniques in dealing with the stress we experience. 
Because children still have immature brains, they are learning how to develop these techniques. It is through daily experiences that they have the opportunity to learn and develop strong connections for this skill in the thinking areas of the brain.
I am thrilled to share this guest post from Dr. Dave Walsh. It is one that gives parents and educators valuable information and guidance on this important topic. Rescuing children from stress  or letting them handle it on their own is decision caring adults involved with children face every day. Dr. Walsh helps to relieve your stress about it with his valuable article. Enjoy!
Children and Stress: Too Hot, Too Cold or Just Right?

It's not easy to watch our kids experience stress and disappointment. Resisting the urge to swoop in and "fix" things for our kids can take every ounce of self-control that we have. This instinct is important since prolonged stress can be damaging and traumatic for kids. Chronic or intense stress can negatively impact memory, learning, and physical and mental health. Sometimes it is absolutely critical that we intervene.
But this doesn't mean that all stress is bad. Good stress can be energizing and motivating. Unfortunately, our ideas about stress and children have gotten so skewed that ANY stress has gotten a bad rap. This has led too many parents down the wrong path. As opposed to equipping children with the tools to navigate and negotiate stress, many parents have focused all of their energy shielding them from it.

All of us adults know that life can deliver a fair amount of stress and disappointment. How can we expect our kids to ultimately be able to handle this if they have never had any practice? Kids need some stress to develop their psychological muscles of resilience, stamina, determination, commitment, and perseverance. These are all qualities they need to succeed in their schools and relationships and, ultimately, in their communities and careers. If they don't build up these psychological muscles, they'll end up being emotionally flabby. 
We want our kids to be able to handle adversity and to grow into adults who can bounce back from difficult times, challenges, and even tragedy. Resilience is the quality that enables them to do that. The catch is that kids don't develop this quality automatically; we have to teach them. For many of us it is easier to race to the rescue or lower the expectations than to raise our kids' discomfort level. We would be wiser to learn when we need to encourage, when to help, and when to stay out, step back and let our kids' flex their emotional muscles.
Here are some practical tips for how to nurture:
·         Relax. If you're not having fun you may be pushing your kids too hard. 
·         Allow kids time for free play. It's a great natural way for children to learn how to manage their behavior and resolve conflict.
·         Praise your child, but be sure to make the praise authentic and meaningful. In other words, connect praise with wholehearted efforts and actions.
·         Provide care, nurturing, and support, but don't always swoop in to bail your child out of a difficult situation.
·         Help your child process the situation afterwards. "What did you learn? How did it make you feel to resolve that conflict? What might you do differently next time?"
·         Validate your child's frustration and acknowledge when something is difficult. "It makes sense that you are frustrated, geometry can be really challenging. I am really proud that you are sticking with it though. I can't solve this for you but why don't you explain to me what you've done so far."
·         Be patient with your child's efforts. You may be able to do a better or faster job of something, but your child loses the opportunity to learn when you take over.
·         Have clear and high expectations for your child's behavior.
·         Help your children build friendships and make connections by teaching them how to manage their own behavior and emotional impulses.
·         Expect children to do their chores and participate in the life and work of the family.
·         Back up teachers and schools. Fighting with teachers to boost your child's grade isn't doing anyone any favors. If you have a real concern about your child's performance schedule an individual meeting and come up with a plan together.
·         Encourage your kids to volunteer and help out others.
Do you have other tips for nurturing resilience in children? We'd love to hear them.


Dr. Walsh is the author of, Smart Parenting, Smarter Kids: The One Brain Book You Need to Help Your Kids Grow Brighter, Healthier, and Happier
It is a great pleasure to have Dave on the Brain Insights Advisory Board.

Comments

4 Responses to “IS SOME STRESS GOOD FOR CHILDREN?”
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John Ross said...

This is stuff I would think to be obvious. The problem is that being obvious doesn't make it any easier to find the balance point at any given moment. Add the element of the child being a special needs person, and you're now trying to find balance in the fog.

Thanks for posting this. Looking forward to the book.

June 13, 2011 at 12:36 PM

I am so glad the things I believe are backed up by others. I have been in many situations where I have had to ask other adults to stop'rescuing' a child from something they should be figuring out on their own. If a child is frustrated because they cannot do something - doing it for them will not allow them to achieve the answers on their own. Developmentally a bit of stress is indeed motivating. Supporting a child in a stessful situation is better than solving every little thing they encounter.

June 13, 2011 at 8:55 PM
Deborah McNelis said...

Leeanne. I appreciate your comment. You stated this so well. Yes, children need to be supported when feeling stress, but that does not mean talking over for them. Guidance and support are the key.

June 14, 2011 at 9:38 AM
Kelly Karius said...

Great post! I absolutely believe some stress IS good for children. When a parent tells me their child is so well behaved that they never have to discipline them, alarm bells go off for me. It tells me that they are probably giving their child pretty much everything they want. Stress, delayed gratification, conflict....these small things we give our children help train them for the larger grown up ones that we experience! When they happen naturally, they provide the greatest learning moments possible!

June 14, 2011 at 2:20 PM

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