A recent poll run by Netmums showed there has been a 70% increase in children emotional problems. The Office for National Statistics says that 1 in 10 children are suffering from mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
These reports are worrying for any parent but there are things we can do to prevent our children from suffering from stress and anxiety.
I do believe children are never too young to learn tools to help them cope with stress. Signs of stress and emotional strain can appear at any time and even the most happy child can start to display signs of irritability and anxiety. Relaxation, play and exercise are key to ensuring children grow up feeling relaxed, happy and positive.
Teaching children to manage stress has now become as important as teaching them to eat well, sleep well and stay physically healthy. To cope, a child needs to understand stress as a “normal” feeling. One useful exercise is to trace around the child on a large piece of paper and then draw on to the body where they feel stress and how it appears ie headaches, unable to sleep, butterflies in the tummy, etc. Ask your child to talk about when they have those feelings and tell them about your experiences. Then help them to manage their stress: they should tell people how they feel, take some steady breaths, blow out imaginary birthday cake candles, keep a journal, distract themselves, take some time out and play a game or listen to music.
Alongside stress management it is important to build a regular relaxation routine for your child. Some children (and adults) find this hard as there is so much they want to do and see and experience, but spending a few minutes relaxing each day will help rest the body and brain, improve concentration, boost the immune system and help you and your child feel more in control.
Here are some tips to help you and your family relax at home.
1 Set up a relaxation area in your house or child's bedroom. It doesn't have to be huge, just a few cushions and blankets will do. Set a time each day where you come together just for a few minutes to lie down and relax.
2 Try playing classical music or relaxation music at some point in the evening to help calm nerves. There has been so much research into how music can effect the mind and emotions.
3 Teach your child to breathe deeply into their stomach. This is key to managing stress. Lie down and put your hands on your stomach. Breathe in and out deeply and watch your tummy rise and fall. This can be done standing up and is great for those anxious moments.
4 Burn a couple of drops lavender or mandarine oil to create a calming atmosphere in the house and particularly bedroom.
5 Encourage children to repeat positive affirmations such as 'I am calm, I am calm' or 'I am relaxed, I am relaxed'
Have a weekly Family Chill Out night where you switch off the TV and relax together for a little longer. You can massage each others backs, listen to relaxing music or relaxation CDs, practice deep breathing or just close your eyes and just imagine you are somewhere relaxing such as lying on a beach. Afterwards, let children talk about anything that might be bothering them.
If you are serious about starting a relaxing routine, sign up for our free 21 days to Happiness Challenge where we will send you a free exercise, tip and article to try out each day for 21 days. http://www.relaxkids.com/21days-parent.aspx
Marneta Viegas Founder of Relax Kids UKs leading expert in children's relaxation. Relax Kids produce a range of quality relaxation CDs to help children relax and feel happy. www.relaxkids.com