How to Help Children Deal with Stress and Anxiety

Clinical psychologist Faye Evans offers some practical advice for parents in helping their child deal with stressful situations.

Clinical psychologist Faye Evans recently presented a Positive Parenting Seminar at Strathcona Baptist Girls Grammar School. Here she shares her advice for helping children deal with problems or something upsetting – use the acronym B-R-I-E:

Balance: Focus on ‘out’ breaths, rather than in-and-out, to slow down a heart rate and calm your child. Balance focuses on your child’s ability to manage their emotions, allowing for the child to recognise their behaviour.

Resilience: Your child’s ability to bounce back must be instilled at an early age. Breaking down events step-by-step with your child  demonstrates that a particularly negative situation may not be as bad as first thought. It is important to highlight that, ‘failure is an opportunity to grow’, versus ‘failure is the limit of my abilities.’

Insight: This is emotional awareness and the capacity of the child to see within themselves. A child with emotional awareness is a child that can actively manage their emotions to stay within a ‘yes’ brain mindset (meaning open-minded, actively listening and efficiently communicating). It is important to ask your child ‘why’ they are feeling a certain way, and get them to recognise their emotional patterns.

Empathy: It is important that you, the parent, be empathetic towards your child’s situation in order for them to be receptive to empathetic behaviour.  It is important to remember that your child has been watching you since the day they were born and can easily recognise when you are agitated or stressed. Ensure you genuinely approach a conversation calmly. The ability to understand others starts with a parent’s approach to communicating with their child.

How to Actively Connect with Your Child

Take a seat with your child and ask them how their day was going. It is this simple display of interest that will encourage your child to open up to you and reciprocate a positive and empathetic mindset.

It is often very easy to get carried away by everyday life, chores, work and daily stresses. However, by initiating this simple conversation, not only is accountability of one’s actions encouraged, but you are also strengthening your bond with your child through genuine conversation – rather than asking them to clean their room, again.

Actively explore how your child is feeling, and why they are feeling a certain way.

It is important to validate your child’s emotions and allow them to develop personal insight into why and how their emotions influence their behaviour.

Be curious and open-minded. Children, particularly teenagers, stop communicating when they feel their parents are judging them, which can easily break the relationship connection. It is essential to remember that pre-teens and teenagers sometimes push boundaries in an effort to discover themselves, who they are and where they fit in this world. Your child is trying to discover their true identity and it is important to be a positive role model, sounding board and non-judgemental figure during this time of their lives.

Faye is the founding Director and Principal Psychologist at Emotional Growth Psychology Family Clinic with over 17 years’ experience working with adolescents, children, parents’ and families from diverse social-cultural contexts. She is passionate about practical parenting strategies based on the neuroscience of parenting and emotion coaching, to assist parents to better understand and connect with their children.

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