Managing Stress

About This Module

Stress is part of everyday life for children. WeParent’s psychologists believe children need to learn to process their stress in healthy ways and develop strategies which they can take forwards throughout their childhood and into adulthood.

A common challenge for parents is differentiating between misbehaviour and stress reactions. Should you punish your child? Or help your child relax and manage the stress in children?

Our strategies don’t focus on how to be a good parent or not, but rather give all parents effective tools and strategies that simply weren’t known when we were children ourselves.

No one wants to punish a child who is frightened, anxious or very stressed.

In this module, we provide you with the parenting help so you can understand why your child may hit, shout, refuse food, appear uncontrollable or perhaps freeze with fear. These behaviours are often met with punishments despite a high likelihood they are actually stress reactions not naughtiness.

If any of these are a challenge in your family, or if you just want to give your child great ways to deal with stress throughout their life, you are in the right place.

Building healthy stress management skills is a vital part of your child’s development and by helping them learn this vital life skill, you are setting them up to cope with the stress and pressure of everyday life throughout childhood, adolescence and into adulthood.

What you’ll learn

  • Understand the signs of stress in your child and how they exhibit their stress.

  • Help you find a suitable way to deal with your child’s stress.

  • Help you better distinguish between ‘Stress Reactions’ and ‘Misbehaviour’ in your child.

  • Learn and put into practice stress management strategies tailored to your child’s own reaction to stress.

“I’ve seen such a positive change in my daughter’s behaviour, I couldn’t have asked for better guidance”

Caroline Delgado, Mother of 2

THE STRATEGIES

Understand how your child experiences their stress through our online assessment. We prescribe you the most effective strategies to teach your child a tailored approach to managing their stress positively, designed by our team of psychologists. Unlimited access to all our strategies is available in your WeParent Membership.

  • CREATING A POSITIVE OUTLET

    Creating a positive energy outlet is a great strategy for children who get energised when they are stressed, e.g. becoming over-active, agitated, destructive or hitting out at others
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  • VOCALISING STRESS

    In this strategy, we have two approaches to helping your child reduce their stress by vocalising it. Otherwise known as venting. Remember, that stress is a waste product that the body needs to dispose of. If your child disposes of their stress by talking or shouting, these are both effective ways to reduce stress.
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  • RESTARTING DIGESTION

    This strategy is for children whose digestion slows or shuts off due to stress reactions. You may notice your child refuses food, becomes agitated or upset at the table. This stress reaction is often mistaken for fussiness. If your child experiences their stress reaction in their stomach regularly, it’s important you find a balance between managing their stress and ensuring they are eating a healthy, nutritious diet.
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  • DEEP BREATHING

    This strategy is designed for children who have a strong, physical reaction to their stress which results in a racing heart. Children can show signs such as shallow breathing, panting or shortness of breath and some go as far as to have panic attacks. Where stress affects our bodies physically in these ways, we can reverse the stress by using a breathing technique that switches on the relaxation responses.
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  • MUSCLE RELAXATION

    When your child is stressed you may find that certain muscles become tense or they become very energised. These strategies are all about helping your child to identify when they are becoming stressed and learn muscle relaxation techniques to best manage it.
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Psychology Fun Facts

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  • Stress is an unavoidable part of life for all children. Parents of toddlers can shelter their child from stress, keeping their child blissfully unaware of the more difficult things in life.

    By the time your child is 4 they are naturally aware of dangers, worries and unpleasant events in the world and we can no longer shelter them completely from worries. We can however teach them useful coping strategies that will last them throughout their life and empower them to manage their stress positively.

  • Misbehaviour or Stress Reaction?

    It’s easy to mistake a child’s stress reaction for misbehaviour. Stress reactions can occur over seemingly small things such as a change in routine or perceived unfairness by parents. It’s important to remember that little things to us can be very significant to children and cause them great stress.

    A stress reaction can be beyond a child’s control. Their body is physically demonstrating their emotions and searching for a release. By understanding stress reactions, we can help our child see they are getting stressed and be supportive rather than threaten punishment for misbehaviours.

  • Time Out is a great strategy when applied as a calming down method. When Time Out is used solely as a punishment, it can then have a negative impact. We can often overlook the simplest of stress management techniques in which children are not punished or ignored, they are simply offered a calming down time and help to do so.

    Where ‘Time Out’ or ‘Naughty Step’ is often used as a punishment you will actually see better results if you place the emphasis on calming down and help is provided to manage stress.

  • If your child is exhibiting a stress reaction, punishing them can cause them to become more stressed or worsening the stress reaction and escalating the situation. Or, it can cause them to internalise their stress.

  • Internalising Stress can cause long term health complaints.

    Stress is considered a waste product of the body, so it needs a proper disposal method. Failure to properly process or dispose of our stress can lead to physical ailments such as a sore stomach in children and later IBS or mental health issues such as Clinical Anxiety.

  • Stress is a physical reaction and we experience it in different ways at different times. Understanding the physical symptoms of your child’s stress can help you both learn how to manage their stress effectively.  

    When under stress, children react in one or more of these 6 categories: 

    • Energised – Stress is felt in large muscles such as legs and arms 
    • Muscle Freeze – Stress causes muscles to lock or tighten 
    • Vocalise – Gives a desire to vent, shout or yell 
    • Heart Races – Pulse races, blood pressure rises and breathing quickens 
    • Stomach – Loss of appetite or a feeling of nausea

    Knowing your little one’s stress reactions and having the right strategy to overcome them together helps your child cope with their stress quicker and with less upset. 

Go To Strategies to take our online stress assessment

Now it’s time to take our ten question assessment to help determine how your child experiences their stress and guide you to the most effective strategies to suit them.

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