How to stop your kids from stressing
Children can develop coping skills by handling some stress. Experts advocate maintaining kids' routines during stressful times.
February 16th, 2012
09:43 AM ET

How to stop your kids from stressing

Editor's note: CNN contributor Amanda Enayati ponders the theme of seeking serenity: the quest for well-being and life balance in stressful times.

There is a good chance that my children (and yours) are stressed out on a daily basis.

Not necessarily from catastrophic burdens such as death, abuse or abandonment (though far too many children are dealing with those as well), but from the slow boil of everyday anxieties - a swell of unrelenting childhood stress that, in the long term, may bury our kids good and well in a tsunami of serious health problems.

More, faster, better

High on the list of stressors is the pressure many parents place on their kids: the mentality that the earlier a child does something - walks, talks, reads chapter books, excels in advanced robotics for kindergartners - the better.

“Competitive anxieties do get induced in a lot of children because they’re induced in a lot of parents,” says Jay Belsky, an internationally recognized expert in the field of child development and family studies and a professor at the University of California, Davis.

“There has been a sea change, a cultural shift,” says Denise Clark Pope, senior lecturer at Stanford University’s School of Education and co-founder of Challenge Success, a project that aims to reduce unhealthy pressure on young people. “We live in a society where there is a premium on performance as opposed to mastery or effort; on grades and scores over engagement; on speed and outer appearances over intrinsic motivations.

“Many parents are getting caught up in the craziness, in the ‘more is better’ and ‘faster is better’ mind-set. Children end up overscheduled and in and out of schools and classes, with very little time left over, including for sleep.”

Strategies for stress relief

The experts Belsky, Pope and Parul Chandra, head teacher at Bing Nursery School, Stanford’s laboratory preschool - favor a handful of strategies that have proven effective in helping children reduce, prevent or cope with stress.

Allow for playtime, downtime, family time. A young child’s job is to play.

Pope says, “Research shows that playtime, downtime and family time are major protective factors in increasing health and well-being, and lowering stress in children.”

Children also need to feel part of an unconditionally loving family.

“You can’t have the benefits of family without spending time together. And it doesn’t matter how you define family; it doesn’t have to be biological. What does matter is literally sitting down, having meals and doing activities together,” she says.

Studies shows that family meals are the single strongest predictor of higher achievement and fewer behavioral issues for children between 3 and 12. “That’s 25 minutes, five times a week.”

Children need time to reflect, to rejuvenate, to rest, Pope says. “And we include sleep in that because lack of sleep is correlated to higher rates of depression and anxiety.”

Distract. Belsky finds that distraction can be an effective strategy for both younger and older children.

“It’s really a matter of turning their attention elsewhere, away from what’s stressing them,” he says.

Early on, adults can help children regulate their attention. Eventually, children will develop the skill themselves and learn to place their focus away from what’s bothering them.

Problem-solve. “We as adults tell children how to solve problems,” Chandra says. “But problem-solving with them instead of for them is very important. You want children to think about what it is they are going through. Have them explain it to you. And then articulate it back so that you can be sure that you are understanding correctly and that you’re both on the same page.”

Ask open-ended questions such as “What do you think may help?” Having children brainstorm a list of possibilities, making them aware of strategies they have used in the past and getting them to come up with solutions can all be hugely empowering for a child.

Keep routines. Chandra advocates maintaining children’s routines during particularly stressful times. “It’s important that they don’t feel like their whole lives are topsy-turvy, that they have parts of the day to look forward to living in the moment and just being a child.”

Watch, listen, communicate, reassure, validate. Listen and watch for atypical behaviors in children, suggests Chandra. The younger the children, the harder it will be for them to talk about what they are feeling.

Pay attention to your child’s stories. Know that their dramatic play is a window into what they’re thinking, going through and worrying about.

Validate children’s feelings. Tell them, "I know how that feels" instead of "you shouldn’t be feeling that way.” Validating is important because it alleviates a lot of stress. But also guide children toward empathizing with others. Ask, “How do you think the other person feels?”

Communicate with your child. Talk about your most aggravating times. Bring up things that caused you stress and how you resolved these problems.

Reassure children that they will be OK.

“There is a whole palate of feelings between mad and sad," Chandra says. "Stress is always going to be there, but you have to give children the skills and words to be able to talk about it. If you don’t, behaviors will come out later and you will wonder where they came from! But acting out usually represents months and years of incidents and feelings that haven’t been discussed - layer upon layer upon layer.”

Let children be children. All three experts warn against treating children like smaller versions of adults. “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, “Be mindful of conversations and things that children can pick up on at home. They pick up more than we think they do. And they if do happen to overhear something, explain that it’s an adult agenda, that their parents will take care of it.

“Children are innately wired to be happy people, and they tend to live in the moment. We as adults have so much to learn from them.”

A life with no stress?

Belsky says, “Look, no life is going to be stress-free. There is something to be said for learning to cope with stress that is in your capacity to cope with.”

Permitting our children the opportunity to experience some stress and enabling them to deal with it creates coping capacity. When you are building muscle, you shouldn’t be lifting too many weights. But the right amount can strain your muscles enough to increase strength. Coping is the same way. If it’s the right amount, children build capacity.

Family’s values

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.”

soundoff (1,009 Responses)
  1. noticias f c barcelona

    Thanks for the marvelous posting! I quite enjoyed reading it,
    you could be a great author. I will make certain to bookmark your blog and may come back in the foreseeable future.
    I want to encourage continue your great posts, have
    a nice morning!

    March 1, 2021 at 22:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. poker depo pulsa

    I was curious if you ever considered changing the structure of your blog?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But
    maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1
    or two images. Maybe you could space it out better?

    March 2, 2021 at 02:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. หวย

    This site was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something which helped me.

    March 2, 2021 at 10:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Aaron Luera

    Wow! Thank you! I continuously needed to write on my blog something like that. Can I take a part of your post to my blog?


    March 4, 2021 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply

    What's up to all, how is all, I think every one is getting
    more from this web page, and your views are fastidious in favor of new visitors.

    March 4, 2021 at 16:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. slotxo

    Woah! I'm really loving the template/theme of this site.
    It's simple, yet effective. A lot of times it's very hard to get that
    "perfect balance" between usability and visual appearance.
    I must say you've done a awesome job with this.
    Additionally, the blog loads super fast for me on Chrome.
    Outstanding Blog!

    March 5, 2021 at 02:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. หวย

    It's actually a nice and helpful piece of information. I'm satisfied that you simply shared this useful information with us.
    Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

    March 5, 2021 at 04:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. productivity sticker

    Will you mind should i quote a couple of your posts given that I provide credit
    and sources back to your website? My blog is in the
    very same niche as yours and my users would really make use of a
    few of the information you present here. Please let me know if this okay along with you.

    my web blog productivity sticker

    March 9, 2021 at 10:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. pocket notebook wallet

    Hi! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous
    room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this page to
    him. Fairly certain he will have a good read.
    Many thanks for sharing!

    Here is my website ... pocket notebook wallet

    March 17, 2021 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. frolep rotrem

    Throughout this awesome design of things you'll secure a B- just for effort and hard work. Where you lost me was first in your specifics. You know, as the maxim goes, the devil is in the details... And it couldn't be much more true right here. Having said that, allow me say to you just what exactly did do the job. The text is definitely pretty convincing and that is probably why I am making an effort in order to opine. I do not make it a regular habit of doing that. Next, despite the fact that I can notice the leaps in logic you make, I am not necessarily convinced of exactly how you seem to unite the points which produce your final result. For the moment I will, no doubt yield to your issue however wish in the future you connect your dots much better.


    March 19, 2021 at 09:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. froleprotrem

    Absolutely pent subject matter, Really enjoyed examining.


    March 22, 2021 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. KbdnMile

    https://papersonlinebox.com/ – writing services for college papers order custom paper where can i find someone to write my college paper custom paper writing

    March 24, 2021 at 07:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Delbert Sbarra

    Keep working ,great job!


    March 24, 2021 at 11:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Muriel Busbey

    Terrific post but I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this subject? I'd be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Appreciate it!


    March 24, 2021 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. FbshEncox

    https://thesisacloud.com/ – thesis chapters college thesis thesis advice thesis writing services

    March 24, 2021 at 21:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Philip Lahne

    Your style is so unique compared to many other people. Thank you for publishing when you have the opportunity,Guess I will just make this bookmarked.2


    March 24, 2021 at 23:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Tiffanie Stoglin

    I like this site very much, Its a real nice post to read and obtain information.


    March 25, 2021 at 04:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. BrfgMile

    https://ljcialishe.com/ – cialis vs.levitra https://cialisvja.com/ – cialis and viagra https://viagraonlinejc.com/ – penis on viagra https://viagratx.com/ – buy viagra cheaper https://buycialisxz.com/ – cialis coupon

    March 25, 2021 at 06:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Reinaldo Bynon

    You could definitely see your expertise within the paintings you write. The arena hopes for more passionate writers such as you who aren't afraid to say how they believe. All the time go after your heart. "Everyone has his day and some days last longer than others." by Sir Winston Leonard Spenser Churchill.


    March 25, 2021 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. GrvCrulk

    https://kloviagrli.com/ – free viagra sample pack https://vigedon.com/ – 200 mg viagra https://llecialisjaw.com/ – cialis and bph https://jwcialislrt.com/ – cialis sublingual https://jecialisbn.com/ – cialis instructions

    March 26, 2021 at 16:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. LmoppEncox

    http://essaywriteris.com/ – essay writer reviews best writing service reviews buy cheap essays online best writing service

    March 27, 2021 at 01:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. JvqqEncox

    https://dissertationahelp.com/ – writing dissertations dissertation advice phd dissertation search umi dissertation publishing

    March 27, 2021 at 05:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. FbshEncox

    [url=https://thesisacloud.com/]good thesis statement[/url] thesis statistics thesis statistics buy a thesis

    April 1, 2021 at 22:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. AbgcEncox

    https://thesiswritingtob.com/ – umi thesis thesis help free help in thesis writing best thesis writing services

    April 3, 2021 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. tadalafil dosage

    tadalafil daily use https://elitadalafill.com/ tadalis sx

    April 4, 2021 at 18:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. live casino

    Greetings from California! I'm bored to tears at work so I decided to check out your blog on my iphone during lunch break.
    I love the information you present here and can't wait
    to take a look when I get home. I'm surprised at how fast your blog loaded on my cell phone
    .. I'm not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways,
    wonderful blog!

    April 6, 2021 at 18:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. sildenafil pills from mexico

    sildenafil 100mg capsule https://eunicesildenafilcitrate.com/ can you buy sildenafil online

    April 7, 2021 at 11:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. injectable drugs for erectile dysfunction

    buy alprostadil cream online https://alprostadildrugs.com/ alprostadil cream cost

    April 7, 2021 at 11:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. vardenafil 10 mg

    vardenafil hcl 20mg tab https://vegavardenafil.com/ vardenafil nortwest pharmacy

    April 8, 2021 at 00:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. FbshEncox

    https://thesisacloud.com/ – thesisacloud.com thesis proposal writing service thesisacloud.com thesis proposal writing service

    April 9, 2021 at 14:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. alprostadil urethral suppository otc

    alprostadil injection site https://alprostadildrugs.com/ injectable ed drugs

    April 11, 2021 at 18:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. ed over the counter cvs

    which erectile dysfunction drug is best https://canadaerectiledysfunctionpills.com/ erectile dysfunction and topical formulas

    April 12, 2021 at 13:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. zithromay

    azithromycin zithromax https://zithromaxes.com/ citramax

    April 13, 2021 at 09:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. cialis through canadian pharmacies

    cialis, sale, canadian pharm. https://canadacialisstore.com/ canadian generic cialis safe

    April 13, 2021 at 22:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. หวย

    Heya i'm for the first time here. I found this board and I
    find It really useful & it helped me out a
    lot. I hope to give something back and aid others like you aided me.

    April 15, 2021 at 23:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. bijan perfume macys

    wonderful put up, very informative. I'm wondering why the other experts of this sector don't realize this.
    You should continue your writing. I am sure, you have a huge readers' base already!

    April 16, 2021 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. generic tadalafil 40 mg

    tadalafil daily use https://elitadalafill.com/ tadalis sx

    April 17, 2021 at 00:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. paris sb dunk lows

    Great beat ! I wish to apprentice while you amend your website, how can i
    subscribe for a blog web site? The account aided me a acceptable deal.
    I had been tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided bright clear concept

    April 19, 2021 at 09:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. canadian pills online

    canadian pharmacies ed pills https://canadapillstorex.com/ canadian generic pills

    April 20, 2021 at 02:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. หวย

    Hey! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering which
    blog platform are you using for this website? I'm getting tired of WordPress because I've had problems with hackers and I'm looking at alternatives for another
    platform. I would be great if you could point me in the direction of
    a good platform.

    April 21, 2021 at 13:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. vardenafil hcl 20mg tab

    vardenafil 20mg tablets https://vegavardenafil.com/ vardenafil 40 mg

    April 22, 2021 at 01:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. JbsdEncox

    canadian viagra https://onlinecanda21.com/ pharmacie canadienne

    April 22, 2021 at 19:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. FbsfEncox

    mexican pharmacies online https://uspharmus.com/ – canadian pharmacy world drugstore online

    April 23, 2021 at 05:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. LrbsEncox

    levitra 10 mg https://uslevitraanna.com/ viagra cialis levitra online pharmacy

    April 23, 2021 at 10:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. RV Furniture California


    April 23, 2021 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Used Forklift Repair Shop California


    April 23, 2021 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. houses for sale sandpoint

    I absolutely love your website.. Pleasant colors & theme. Did you create this web site yourself? Please reply back as I’m trying to create my own personal website and would love to find out where you got this from or what the theme is named. Thank you!


    April 23, 2021 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. AbdgEncox

    canadian cialis http://canadianeve21.com/ reputable canadian mail order pharmacies

    April 23, 2021 at 17:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. FbsfEncox

    Dramamine https://uspharmus.com/ canada pharma limited

    April 23, 2021 at 21:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. temecula collision center

    After looking over a few of the articles on your blog, I really like your technique of blogging. I added it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back in the near future. Take a look at my website too and tell me your opinion.


    April 24, 2021 at 04:26 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Leave a Reply to Sprinter Mechanic Near Me


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.