When raising my boys, I often forget to consider their stress. They seemed to handle stress way better than I did, after all. As I better tuned into their stress, though, I saw it as a valuable parenting opportunity.
Sources of stress are many for kids of any age. They include:
- School: grades, homework, tests, etc.
- Peer pressure: got to fit in or be excluded.
- Parent pressure: chores, behavior, attitude, etc.
- Consequences: stupid choices leave a trace.
- Wanting to relax.
- Thinking about and planning for the future.
An Immediate Response
Most kids, and many adults, tend to react to stress without first thinking the problem through. A stress-management approach for kids must be sort of programmed into their brains (in the spirit of Deuteronomy 6:7). Keeping this in mind, ask the following questions when a stressful situation seeks to control them:
What can you do about it?
What can’t you do about it?
Who/what can you control/not control?
Who/what can you change/not change?
It’s also important to address the fairness issue, since kids often dwell here. They need to know that life isn’t always fair.
In addition to getting our boys to realize they can only control themselves and their reactions, we also tried to provide stress-relieving activities or approaches for managing stress. Those included giving them a venue to talk out what’s on their minds and making sure they have enough physical activity and leisure time. We also made sure to have lots of family time as well as to provide structure that suits the child. And, of course, consistency blanketed all of these.
A Biblical Response
Advice on teaching our kids anything lies incomplete and ineffective without integrating what Scripture says about preventing, managing, and eliminating stress for our kids. With that in mind, let’s make a somewhat unique application of some very familiar parenting verses.
- Don’t exasperate & discourage them (Colossians 3:21). So often, my kids’ stress came from or was made worse by my own poor stress management.
- Give them skills to deal with their feelings (Proverbs 1:8-9). Be available to listen and to let them talk.
- Teach them ways to relieve stress (Proverbs 22:6). Include them in your own stress relievers when possible.
- Tell them why managing stress is important (1 Peter 5:3). Use yourself as an example.
- Model positive stress management (Titus 2:7-8). Make sure what you say matches what you do.
I want my kids to realize that stress is not always bad. In fact, we need stress to grow and thrive. Take the amoeba — the most basic of life forms — for example. Scientists introduced it into a completely stress-free environment in a petri dish. What happened? The amoeba died. When placed in a “normal” environment with all its challenges, though, the amoeba multiplied and thrived.
The same happens, essentially, with us. Without stress, we fail to thrive and grow. Plus, a stress-free life isn’t possible anyway.
Good parenting, then, involve teaching our kids how to prevent, manage, and relieve stress. As we live out what the Bible says when we train our kids to handle the inevitable in life helps them to truly be not only productive and positive but to do so in a way that honors God and points others to Him.