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Posts Tagged ‘stress’

The most successful teams I have seen, from sports to the workplace to philanthropic groups, are ones on which every participant is working with others doing what each does best.  The teams that I watch fail are those where everyone is trying to be the star and no on wants to play a supporting role.  I was in 3rd grade PE class when I learned that winning was important to everyone.  Not being very coordinated and, quite frankly, caring more about friends than winning or losing, I was never first choice for any teams.  I remember being so very confused that people I thought were friends were choosing others for their team because they had a better chance of winning.  In sixth grade I realized that I was not in the “smartest” class, only the “second smartest” in my grade and I was too young to realize that in my case, changing classes meant going from the top of second to the bottom of first.

To this day I have a problem with competition.  Yes, I realize that competition can push us to be better, give us something to strive for etc., but we are assuming that without competition we would turn into lumps.  Instead, I suggest that in fostering competition we are encouraging a society where there is a hierarchy of abilities instead of a society that recognizes each person for what they are good at. 

More times than not I see children as young as four years old, sad, depressed, angry (note none of these are positive emotions) because they weren’t the best at one or two activities.

Let’s imagine for a minute that instead of competing for one or two coveted spots on a team or in school, each child was recognized for what they are good at.  That every child’s unique contributions to the world were cherished.  Do we really think that under those circumstances our corporate, social and financial worlds would do anything but thrive?  Not to mention what the spirit of collaboration could do for world peace.

I see parents pushing their children earlier and earlier in sports, academics, dance, art….trying to secure a “top spot” in their child’s future.  I also see a lot of kids suffering from anxiety, depression, and stress disorders in elementary and middle school.  It’s not too late to change our world.  Here are a few ways to help foster collaboration and bringing out your child’s unique talents.

1)  Let your child try lots of sports, art and social activities before deciding on which one they excel at.  Don’t tell them how they are doing, praise them for trying and let them tell you how the activity makes them feel.  It is OK to do something just because it’s fun.

2) Do household projects as a family letting each person choose the part of the activity they will enjoy most.  Then talk about how quickly the project got finished and what each person enjoyed most about it.

3)  If you have multiple children, let the kids help each other with difficult homework problems or projects.  Letting them help each other not only lets each child shine, but it teaches the children that one person (the parent) doesn’t have to be great at everything!

4)  Ask for help and let your children see you do that.  In acknowledging that you are not an expert at everything, you open the doors for your children to know it’s OK to do the same.

5)  Let your children see you share your talents with others.  They will then want to share their gifts as well.

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Blurry eyes, hair in a pony tail, coffee in hand and pj bottoms on as you drive the kids to school– Sound familiar?  These are not signs of a lazy parent, these are indicators of a parent who is so busy that self-care has fallen behind (way behind) caring for the family, relatives, work, school, friends…have I missed anyone?  Oh yeah, the family pets too.

When 24 hours just doesn’t seem like enough time to accomplish everything on the daily to-do list, most parents sacrifice self-care in order to meet the needs of everyone around them.  We know we are not SuperMom or SuperDad, but we look at those around us and if we have a little more time, energy, health or assets, we tend to feel obligated to lend a helping hand.  And we have trained one another to work until we drop.  How many times have you found yourself saying to a friend, “I really don’t have time to bake cookies for the preschool bake sale, but they really need the funds and I would feel guilty if I didn’t do my part.”  Where’s the sign that reads, IF YOU’VE TAKEN CARE OF YOU TODAY THEN WE’D LOVE TO HAVE 2 DOZEN CUPCAKES.  IF NOT, GO AHEAD AND EAT A CUPCAKE, WE’LL CATCH YOU NEXT TIME. ?

Helping and giving are HIGHLY encouraged, but as with all things we have to find balance.  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Adrenal Fatigue and Hormone Imbalances are on the rise, and all of these illnesses are heavily influence by stress, nutrition and sleep.  For many parents I know, a balanced meal is eating the leftovers off each child’s plate, adequate sleep is a an uninterrupted nap while peeing and stress management includes enough chocolate consumption to fuel a neighborhood Halloween party for decades.  I will never forget the moment I realized I was not getting enough sleep:  the 20 minutes I was under anesthesia for a routine test were so sound and peaceful that I yelled “YOU’RE SO LOUD,” at the anesthesiologist as he was trying to wake me!

We all know when we are burning the candle at both ends, but what we don’t always realize is that sibling squabbles, cranky children, poor behaviors and obstinate actions in our children are often caused by the over-committing we do as parents.  When we are tired or cranky or always rushing to get to the next thing, our children serve as early warning systems trying to alert us to the damage our actions are causing.  The trouble is, just like the warning to change smoke alarm batteries every month, we usually ignore them.  Oftentimes, if we make subtle shifts towards our own self-care, our children will respond and the family balance returns to a peaceful roar?

What could you give up today?  What actions could you leave to another person?  What could you do for yourself each day that would bring you comfort, joy or satisfaction?

Next week we will offer some tips on how to make easy shifts towards self-care.  Stay tuned….

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Whether your child is in preschool, primary school, secondary education or heading off to college, it’s crunch time.  You’re hitting the local retailers stocking up on glue, paper, pencils and the perfect binders, filling out school forms and checking to see which clothes at the bottom of the dresser still fit.

Some children see all of this commotion and transition as an exciting right of passage.  They relish the school clothes shopping, getting a new backpack and the anticipation of finding out which homeroom they will be in.  For other children, this time is filled with anxiety.  They refuse to try on clothes because they don’t want to part with the pair of jeans that fit just right, a new lunch box makes them cry and the thought of walking into school that first day has them twisted in knots — literally.

You might be ready for school to start, but if you have a child who gets anxious or nervous when things change, you may be finding that your home is filled with tears, angst and disruptions.  The key is not trying to convince your Nervous Nelly that “it’s all OK,” because the fact is, no matter what you say, you cannot make it feel OK in their little body with words.  Helping your child with this transition is less about assumptions as to what the stressors are and more about actually finding out what causes the anxiety.

New experiences can make a child feel like their world where they have very few options already is really out of control. Instead of trying to tell your child how great school will be, give him a voice.  Ask him what he thinks about school.  Ask him what he thinks will be fun and ask him what he thinks won’t be fun.  For older children, ask them who they are looking forward to hanging out with and what teachers they hope to get.  Conversely, ask them if anything is making them feel nervous or uncomfortable as they think about the impending school year.  By asking them what they are feeling and thinking you will gain a great deal of insight into what makes them feel safe and what does not.   It may take some prodding and you may have to help your younger child find the words to describe what he is feeling.  Be sure to ask about lunch (some children are afraid they won’t like the food or won’t have someone to sit with — see, it’s not about the green lunchbox  after all.)  Ask about their transportation; just because Aunt Susie is taking them to work doesn’t mean it’s comfortable for them or perhaps they have a perception that Aunt Susie’s propensity for being late will make life difficult for them.   Talk with them about all of the different facets of the upcoming school year, breaking down the  school day if you have to in order to get to the bottom of the stress indicator(s).

Give them as much control as possible.  Let them pick out school supplies and tools.  Let them help set up their study and homework area at home.  Visit the after-school care center and let them see where they will be spending their after or before school time.  Put a picture of you on a keychain and attach it to your child’s backpack or lunchbox.  Help them make a list of foods they would like to have in their lunch or get the school’s lunch calendar before school starts to talk about food options.

Come up with a plan together for those things that make them feel unsafe.  Here’s the key part — there are no rules when it comes to keeping your child safe.  My son use to have a great deal of difficulty assimilating the first few days of school.  A new classroom was completely overstimulating.  Our elementary school does not release classroom assignments  until the night before school starts.  I’m a self-proclaimed rule follower,  but the rules went away when I became my child’s advocate.  For 3 years I would go to the school’s office when it opened in August and talk with the powers that be calmly and articulately explaining what I wanted and why and how it would benefit them as well as my child.  My son would meet his teacher and see his new room several days before school started and it helped him immensely.

So whatever it is that makes your son or daughter feel stressed, find a way to help them feel a little safer — you’ll both be more relaxed the first few days of school.

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No matter how intent we are onhiding our stress from our children it inevitably wears on them.  I’m not talking about Acute Stress, like waking up late or hitting all red lights on the way to drop off.  That will stress your child out too, but with less long term affects.  I’m talking about Chronic Stress, the kind of stress that comes from illness in the family, career changes, moves or a bad economy.

You may think you are a master thespian when it comes to hiding stress, but our children are hardwired to trust their intuition, so no mask in the world is going to prevent them from knowing that something is eating at you.  Recently I asked my children how they know when I’m stressed.  My daughter who is 12 took her hands and separated them while making an “explosion” noise.  I had to laugh, she’s correct.  If I’m stressed I carry it outside of my body and like a force parting the Red Sea I  can move things out of my way just by looking at them.  I then asked them how they know when their dad, a total introvert, is stressed.  Again with the hands, my daughter drew them in, clasped them tightly and hunched her back.  She said, “It feels like this.”  So even though my husband thinks he has a fool-proof mask he’s busted by the kids.  She was correct.  My husband retreats emotionally afraid to let anyone know he’s out of sorts.

How do we know when our kids are stressed?  They have their own tells.  One becomes completely withdrawn and picks her nails the other walks around the house checking on everyone.  Here are some other common “tells” that may indicate your child is internalizing the family stress. 

Signs of Stress in Your Child(ren):

1) Sudden Behavioral Changes

2) An inability to keep track of their belongings

3)They become super clingy or anti-social

4)The whine factor increase (making you want to increase your own wine factor)

5)Grades start slipping

6)Self sabotage can occur (nail biting, thumb sucking, scratching themselves etc.)

For tips on how to break the stress patterns and bring back balance, read next week’s blog.  In the meantime, share with us what you’ve noticed about stress and your children.

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