Stress. It's not just us adults who suffer from it. More and more children are also increasingly affected by stress, even at primary school age. The Stress symptoms are just as varied and individual as the coping strategies. The following strategies are intended to help children to react appropriately and in a health-promoting manner in acute stress situations.
Whether professionally or privately - over 60% of adults in Germany experience stress. There are several application-related approaches to stress prevention or to improving stress competence in us adults. But what about the smallest among us - our children? After all, children also suffer from stress symptoms as early as primary school age.
More and more of them are complaining about regular physical complaints (States of exhaustion, Sleeping difficultieshead and stomach pain), Nervousness and lack of concentration and about lack of appetite and listlessness as a result of School-leisure or family stress.
Up to now, only a few application-oriented approaches have looked at the stress life of children. One of these is the evidence-based programme "Take it easy" by Johannes Klein-Heßling and Arnold Lohaus (2012), which is primarily a child-oriented stress prevention and management is thematized.
Structure and contents of a stress prevention training using the example of "Stay relaxed
In terms of content, education and knowledge transfer about the origin and development of stress, knowledge about potential Stress reactions and coping strategies the main themes of the programme.
The children learn in a playful wayThe participants will be able to recognize their individual stress situations and triggers and will be able to perceive their own stress reactions. Through Self-reflection and sharing about their own stressful lives, the children learn that they are not alone with their problems and challenges and that they can exchange information with others (social network).
In addition to the above-mentioned building blocks for understanding and improving children's individual stress management and action skills, parents should of course also be involved in the general reduction of stress. With the help of the transactional stress model according to Lazarus (1966), parents learn about the development of stress and the factors involved. They are sensitized to recurring stress situations and symptoms of their children by encouraging them to talk openly about problems and difficulties.
When the children notice that they are heard and taken seriously, this makes it easier to access the child.
Stress management strategies
An important point in the stress process are the coping strategies (Coping strategies), whereby a distinction is made between problem-solving / instrumental and emotion-regulating / palliative strategies.
Problem solving strategies
Problem-solving strategies are based on the Coping with the stress trigger on. An example of this would be the improvement of the Time management, by so-called time thieves (this can cause interruptions in Homework or noise sources such as an open window) can be detected and reduced.
Emotional regulation strategies
Emotion-regulating coping strategies, on the other hand, influence Stress reactionSo the children can Breathing exercisesimaginary journeys, progressive muscle relaxation, child--Yoga or the Favourite music help you distract yourself and relax.
The goal is that the children have fun and be able to apply these strategies individually, flexibly and situationally and integrate them into their everyday life.
Two strategies will be presented in more detail here, which the children can quickly and easily incorporate into their everyday lives and apply in acute stress situations:
This short breathing exercise serves as an acute stress management strategy, through the use of which the children can Reduce nervousness and aggressiontheir Improve the ability to concentrate and can deal with their problems in a more relaxed and calm manner.
When performing the "Indian scream", the children should stand upright, open their mouths wide, take a deep breath and put all their strength into the scream. The arms are torn wide apart when they scream. But the "Indian Cry" is a silent cry, no one will hear it! But the children can imagine what the scream sounds like, where it reaches and what kind of scream it is supposed to be: Is it more of a scream like Tarzan makes in the jungle or like King Kong's giant gorilla?
Following this exercise, it is helpful to ask how the children liked the Indian cry, what it sounded like from their point of view and when the cry can help them with stress.
Jump into the alertness
The "leap into alertness" is also a short-term coping strategy, which reduces the children's stress through breathing and movement exercises and Voltage regulation is supposed to improve.
The children stand in such a way that they have enough space with outstretched arms. The jump helps the children to become fit and awake again. It is important to have a good and firm stand on the ground. The children close their eyes and pay attention to their breathing by concentrating completely on their stomach below the navel, gathering all their strength there and preparing for the jump. It is counted backwards from four and at zero the children jump up, pulling their arms and legs far outwards, so that their bodies form an X. The eyes are opened wide and the children scream "HAAA" when jumping!
After the exercise, the children should think of situations in which they can use the "leap to wakefulness".
Bottom line: How children react to stress is based on innate reaction patterns that are altered by learning processes. They like automated (unconscious) and solidified patterns of thinking and feeling ...to the ground. Over time, the children's behavioral patterns become habitual.
If children cannot successfully adapt to a stressful situation and cope with it, the satisfaction of needs is threatened, just like with us adults. This is often achieved with a Feeling of helplessness and the loss of situational control. In order to cope with stress and to satisfy needs in the short term, children in such situations often react negatively and with destructive coping strategies (e.g. with anger and resentment). However, as long as they are not aware of these negative reaction patterns, they will react negatively with every unsuccessful adaptation.
Only the raising awareness of their behaviour causes the starting signal for a change: The conscious perception of stress reactions aims to identify cognitions and emotions that are associated with stress. The "Indian cry" and the "leap to alertness", among many other techniques, represent positive approaches to how children can successfully deal with stressful situations.
If the children regularly practice positive behaviour, it will become more solid, and the negative habits will gradually be suppressed and take their place in stress management.
This article is a guest contribution from Steffi.
I am a psychologist and am currently completing a training course to become a consultant for stress management. I find everything about mindfulness, resilience and meditation incredibly exciting. Maybe that's why I like to train karate so much - besides discipline and respect, the above mentioned areas complement the karate training wonderfully.
Klein-Heßling, J. & Lohaus, A. (2012). Stress prevention training for children of primary school age. Göttingen: Hogrefe Verlag.