The best way to equip your child to handle stress is to start with the basics: Ensure that she gets enough sleep (9 to 11 hours for school-age kids); eats a healthy, well-balanced diet (a hearty breakfast of eggs and whole wheat toast, for example, provides needed energy on test or game day); and has time to just chill out and be a kid (riding a bike, coloring, or playing in the backyard are all good options). After all, it’s harder to face a challenge when you’re tired, hungry, or just plain worn out from being constantly on the go.
Even when kids are well-fed and rested, however, they can still feel stress when faced with an important tryout or a trying experience. Teach your child these tension-taming tricks, and he’ll be prepared to keep his cool in the classroom, on the field, or on stage. Have him practice them regularly at home so they feel natural when he needs to call on them.
Stay Cool Tool #1:
Relaxing breaths. A few deep breaths can calm both body and mind. Have your child close his eyes and slowly inhale for a count of five. She should hold the breath for a couple of seconds before exhaling for another count of five. For an extra positive boost, she can imagine “blowing out” her fears as she exhales and picture “letting in” fresh, positive air as she inhales.
Stay Cool Tool #2:
A happy place. Show your child how to trigger relaxation when he needs to collect his thoughts by focusing his mind on a pleasant place. This could be anywhere he feels at ease: the comfy chair in his bedroom, the lake where you vacation, or beneath a favorite leafy tree in the park or backyard. Encourage your child to close his eyes and engage his senses by thinking about the smells, sights, sounds, and touch sensations of the place he’s imagining.
Stay Cool Tool #3:
Muscle motion. With her eyes closed, have your child take a few slow, deep breaths. Then choose one body part to focus on—say, her toes. Have her tense that part of her body and hold for four to five seconds before releasing. Repeat the motion, tensing and releasing the legs (pushing them against the floor or ground), fingers/hands, arms, shoulders, and face.
Stay Cool Tool #4:
Positive thoughts. It’s common for negative thoughts such as I can’t do this to pop up during stressful times, so encourage your child to turn the tables on downers. For example, I’m probably going to miss this shot while preparing to make a free throw in basketball can become I’ve been practicing a lot and getting better. Likewise, I always bomb on science tests can be replaced by I’ve put in the time studying, and I’m prepared to do my best. Also, quietly repeating serene thoughts such as Just relax and breathe or I’m fine can push out the negativity and make room for calm.