How do I respond to and help regulate my Child Stress?
Stress is a normal part of life. Parents often wish to protect their children from all stress. The belief that we can protect children from stress is an unrealistic expectation and only adds to parents’ and child’s stress!
Trying too hard to protect child from stress or quickly fixing the stressful situation for the child doesn’t give the child enough opportunity to learn to deal with it himself/herself. It tends to breed insecurity, low self-confidence, and unrealistic expectations of how life is supposed to be.
Helping children regulate stress, that is calming down and recovering from stress is important. For infants, most of the regulating is done by the parent.
As the child gets older, it is important to step back and turn over more of the regulating to the child so that he/she learns to self-regulate.
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Stepping in and helping regulate the child’s stress when the child needs it and only as much he/she needs it teaches the child to handle stress on their own and prepares for the stresses that come later in life.
Listed below are a few ways of responding to and regulating your child’s stress:
Being held or hugged can calm the child during times of stress. Just the physical presence of the parent is very important for a child. The parent doesn’t have to do or fix anything, but just be there.
Holding or containing the child’s stress, which is being a container for child’s stress so that it doesn’t spill over.
Containment is empathizing with the child, validating what the child is going through, reassuring that he/she is not alone and resonating with the child’s feelings. Expressions such as “I know it’s hard.”, “I can understand what you are going through.” or “I know you are feeling scared and I am here with you.” help contain stress
Listening to the child without judging or giving advices can be all that the child needs. Providing a structure and establishing limits calmly and firmly helps the child feel safer. It can be stressful for the child to not know what is expected of him/her.
A child with no limits can feel quite anxious. Empathizing and validation means that you can understand the child’s perspective, and may not be that you are agreeing to their perspective. Just the fact that the child is feeling heard and understood makes him/her feel less stressed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sapna Sajan is a psychotherapist practicing Transactional Analysis(TA) as her primary modality.
She is also trained in NLP, Gestalt and Psychodrama and integrates all these modalities in her work. She holds a post graduate degree in Management specializing in Human Resources. She practices individual therapy and group therapy.
She is passionate about working with parents and a lot of her work as a psychotherapist focuses on the relationship between parents and children. She also works with parents of children with special needs and with adults on the autism spectrum. Traveling and spending time with nature are some of the things she enjoys.