Here’s a cool article you might enjoy on how to “stop your kids from stressing.” It comes from the experts at Bing Nursery School at Stanford – the very place that brought you the Marshmallow Test – and (to sum up) the tips are as follows:
1. Allow for playtime, downtime, family time. I am a big believer in this one – an overscheduled Casa del Bracker is a homicidal Casa del Bracker. I can’t do a lot about mommy and daddy’s crazy schedules (at least not until my office completes its crushing of Lockheed Evildoers and Daddy finishes school) but I can try to resist the urge to sign them up for every thing under the clear blue sky.
And on this topic, I especially enjoyed this gem: “Studies shows that family meals are the single strongest predictor of higher achievement and fewer behavioral issues for children between 3 and 12.” Hmm. Off to find some new recipes. 🙂
2. Distract. Help them turn their focus away from what’s bothering them. Perhaps a nice game of Wii, anyone? I have recently been learning the power and value of distraction as a way to maintain patience and reach a goal – I guess I have always thought of “distraction” as a bad thing, when really, it’s more like fire. Sure, it can wreck your house and kill you dead, but it can also cook your food and give you warmth and light. Like fire, it just has to be CONTROLLED.
3. Problem solve. That’s teaching it, not doing it for them, by the way. The aticle suggests you start by actively listen to the problem, then ask open ended questions (“what do you think would help?”). I am a huge fan of this one, since it builds a life skill. The trick for me (as anyone who spends much time with my poor daughter will see) is that I want to JUMP IN AND FIX IT for her rather than letting her grapple with it on her own. Luckily for Matthew, I at least recognize that isn’t the best thing now.
4. Keep routines. The article suggests that when things are stressful, routines are even more important. This, of course, is music to my heart. But it also comports with my observations both as a parent and as a teacher. Routines provide a measure of comforting predictability, as well as something to look forward to when other things are not going as well.
5. “Watch, listen, communicate, reassure, validate” – isn’t that more than one thing? Taken together, they seem to be saying check in and stay aware of how your kids are feeling so you can respond appropriately – including by reassuring them that it is “ok” to have whatever emotion they are having. I like that this is intended to guide them toward more empathy – “how do you think the other person feels?” Give them skills to talk about stress and stressors, so that they can “use their words” and not their actions.
6. Let children be children. I love this quote: “Physiologically, kids are not mini-adults,” Pope says, “and the idea of miniaturizing the adult world is a huge problem. It can lead to things like inappropriate use of media, inappropriate ways of dressing and inappropriate things being put on children’s shoulders.” Chandra advises that if kids do pick up on things happening at home, that they be told it’s “an adult agenda” and that parents are taking care of it. That seems to make some solidly good sense.
Now, the most interesting suggestion to me was this:
Pope recommends that families sit down and take a hard look at the value systems driving them. “Ask the big questions: How are you, your school and your child defining success? It is often that definition, that value system, that is driving the unhealthy stress.” Work together to write a mission statement that articulates the family’s core values, Pope suggests. Who are you as a family? Where are you going? And who are you not? A lot of important parenting choices are made on the fly from your gut. “You ask people what they want for their children and most will say, ‘A happy, healthy, self-sufficient person who gives back to society.’ But if you work backward from that, it’s not about the overscheduled, gratified 8-year-old. We are talking about the long term here.” Pope adds, “And even if that train has already left the station, it’s not too late. It’s never too late! Put your stake in the ground, abide by it and live your values.”
Wow! Love that!
Has anyone ever tried this family mission statement thing? I am not sure that we are ready for that at 3 and 6, but I do think the “working backward” idea is a great topic of discussion for parents!