Now more than ever, kids need techniques and avenues to relief stress. Having gone through over a year of living through the pandemic plus having to deal with societal and academic pressures, stress relief for our kids is crucial for now and the future when it comes to their mental and emotional health. Stress in kids can also result from school, homework, friends, family disruptions, changes in routines, and many other situations.
Stress can be observed as an obvious physical reaction such as crying, a headache, or it can be an emotional or behavioural reaction such as worrying or extreme shyness. Reactions to stress can vary with your child’s age and stage of development. On the surface, your child might seem unfazed about the ups and downs of home and school life. While this may be the case, teaching your child stress management techniques and embarking on stress relief activities are helpful as he or she grows, and more demands are placed on him or her. Here are some strategies to help your kids cope with stress and simple ways to implement them that can ease the stress too for your entire family.
This is a given because kids are active and need to expend their energy! Regular exercise and physical activities not only build strength and cardiovascular health, they release endorphins (the feel good hormone that increases feelings of pleasure and well-being and also reduces pain and discomfort) as well as improve sleep. All of this leads to minimising stress and anxiety. Even if you’re pressed for time, a short burst of movement or physical activity as a family increases a feeling of togetherness, which might be just want your little one needs. How about a living room dance party or a quick game of tag around the house? Anything to get the adrenaline and endorphins going! Activities can be indoors and outdoors so take your pick!
There’s much to be said about the benefits of yoga which combines movement, strength building, stretching, and focus on breath. What’s more, yoga helps to build flexibility, coordination, body awareness, and creates a sense of calm that helps with curbing stress and anxiety. If you’re looking for a fun way to introduce your kids to yoga, these yoga cards for kids from So Yoga are a fabulous place to start! These cards showcase an awakening game to practice yoga with animals with 50 postures beautifully illustrated and clearly explained in short steps. These cards also present a great way to bond with your child as you attempt and explain the poses too!
There’s something to be said about being one with nature and in Singapore, there are many parks and nature trails for you and the kids to explore. The minute you step into a nature park, all your cares and worries suddenly melt away and the foliage beckons you to slow down and explore all that is around you. This is perfect way to teach your kids about slowing down and taking time to admire Singapore’s rich flora and fauna. Check out Bukit Batok Nature Park that is developed on an abandoned quarry site and features stunning views and crystal clear waters. How about exploring Thomson Nature Park? This boasts easy trails, and your kids can even learn about the rich cultural heritage of the Hainanese population in Singapore. If your kids are looking for more, you can head to Chestnut Nature Park that has separate mountain biking and hiking trails, perfect for active tykes!
What better way to relief some pent-up emotions than kneading some dough and putting sprinkles over everything? Most, if not all, children love to bake because it is interactive, and they get to use grown-up equipment. There are many recipes out there ranging from healthy to sweet and savoury, to 10-minute brownies and everything in between. With little kids, something as easy as making chocolate chip cookies or even donuts, will satisfy. Check out these baking kits from Little Cookhouse and The Little Things that make dishing out these delectable super easy!
When we are stressed or feel anxious, your breathing pattern is affected and we start taking short, quick, shallow breaths. Similarly, your child might experience this too or start to feel like there are butterflies in his or her stomach. Mindful breathing on the other hand, is taking in a slow breath through the nose, holding the breath for a few seconds, then exhaling slowly through the mouth. This will help your child to focus on something other than stress and anxiety, and once his or her breathing has slowed, he or she will feel more calm. Teaching your child this stress-relieving strategy is great because he or she can use it anywhere and anytime the need arises, even when you can’t be there. You can conduct this exercise as a regular nap or bedtime activity, which in turn also helps to promote calmness before sleep. Check out Mindful Space’s events and workshops for kids!
Journaling can take many forms and while it’s often considered a grown-up activity, young kids can also benefit from it. Learning how to write out feelings on paper can make a whole lot of difference and teaching kids how to express themselves freely as well as work through their stresses through writing is an important life skill. You can guide your kids to create their very own journals and if they are more artistically inclined, then scrapbooking might be the perfect choice! Beginners will probably need a scrapbook kit to get them going. You can get these from PaperMarket or Spotlight. Even Daiso might have the materials required to create a scrapbook. If you child is older, let them choose a notebook, some gel pens, and then watch as they work their magic with other materials already available at home.
Music makes the world go round, and yes, it is a wonderful way to ease your child’s worries away. It is an excellent way to wind down the day after school or before bedtime. Music can be used to relax, inspire, motivate, and heal. It doesn’t matter what genre of music your child fancies because what works for one may not work for another. Music is all around us and can take different forms – from the melodic bird chirping outside your window to playing an instrument or singing in the shower. Nowadays, music has also been used for stress therapy, for example, the banging of drums to vent your frustrations away. Even at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, music therapy is an allied health service that uses music intervention to achieve functional outcomes. See what works for your child at home and have musical instruments (toys and the real deal) within reach. You might find that he or she chooses a particular instrument and derives joy in making some music!
As with music, art provides young children with a powerful outlet for their feelings. Art can help kids process dark emotions and is also a way to express and amplify joy, as children unleash their creativity with different mediums like vibrant-coloured textured paper, glitter glue, stickers, cloth and even putty! Pinterest is a wonderful resource for you to explore fun, crafty ideas for kids of all ages. There are plenty of ideas from easy and inexpensive to complex family projects! Look out for Art Pantry’s Family Canvas Challenge that runs live a few times a year, but you can embark on it at any time. Basically it just means that your whole family crafts your very own art piece using eight mediums. There are step-by-step guides throughout the whole process! Stress-busting and family bonding time sorted!
Working in the garden reduces cortisol levels (a chemical your body produces in response to stress) even more than picking up your favourite book! Kids love to help out in gardening projects and get all mucky. Make gardening a fun-filled project during the school holidays or it can just be a short weekend activity. Best of all, your kids will be able to watch as the fruits of the labour pay off and turn into beautiful blooms or luscious fruits and veggies! If you don’t want too much of a mess, invest in a Click And Grow Indoor Smart Garden. You can have your kids take ownership of their herb plot or veggie garden!
Talking about Stress
One of the most important stress-busting activities is communication. Talking about stress and acknowledging stress, even for the young ones, is a good way to start the path to healing early. You can source storybooks to help young kids relate to characters that are in stressful situations and learn how they work out their problems. Some suggested books for young children include:
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
- Stress Can Really Get on Your Nerves by Trevor Romain and Elizabeth Verdick
- A Boy and a Turtle by Lori Lite
- How Big are Your Worries Little Bear? by Janeen Sanders
- Rudy Finds a Worry by Tom Percival
- When My Worries Get Too Big by Kari Dunn Buron
- Wilma Jean – The Worry Machine by Julia Cook
Teaching your kids how to cope with stressful situations is a very valuable skill that supports their growth into successful adults. Through these activities, kids also learn ways that they are able to incorporate something they love, be it a sport, music, or art, with a useful tool they can use when they find themselves feeling overwhelmed. Work with your child on ways to manage stress that comes with growing up. Your effort will pay off and in the end, you’ll have a child that is armed and ready to deal with whatever pressures they face with a positive outlook.