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April 1, 2024

5 Ways to Help Kids Relieve Stress

BFIN Stress Hero

National Stress Awareness Month

In today’s fast-paced world, stress feels like it’s lurking around every corner. Parents are under so much pressure and stress themselves that they sometimes don’t realize their kids are experiencing stress too.

April is National Stress Awareness Month, a time to draw attention to the negative impacts of stress and learn healthy coping mechanisms to control it. In this blog, we’ll give you five ideas to help your kids manage stress.

Get some fresh air

Spending just 20 minutes in nature can help lower stress and reduce cortisol levels. When your child shows signs of stress, it may be time to head outdoors.

Connect with nature in whatever way works best for your family. You can try a walk around your neighborhood, gardening or gathering nature materials for a new art project. Spend a day in one of Indiana’s state parks or search “free parks near me” to find local outdoor spaces.

Looking for more ideas? Check out our blog on nature-based activities for kids.

Create a calm-down corner

Provide a safe, quiet corner of your home for your child to unwind. Fill this space with plush blankets, beanbags, soft toys and books. Having a quiet place all to themselves will give your child time to process their emotions. 

These moments of alone time can also help your child learn self-regulation skills. Self-regulation is the ability to manage one's emotions and behavior in all types of situations. Giving children alone time in a quiet corner allows them to become more reflective and self-aware, and will therefore help them regulate their own emotions.

Encourage a creative outlet

Encouraging your child to tap into their creativity can help them relieve stress. Being creative promotes mindfulness and grounds your child in the current moment. Rather than focusing on what’s stressing them, they’ll shift their focus to the creative project at hand.

Try different creative activities to see which resonates most with your child. Painting, journaling, drawing, dancing, playing instruments and cooking can all serve as creative outlets.

Spending time creating can help your child express their emotions in a non-verbal way. This is helpful as sometimes there aren’t words for what may be causing stress in your child. Art and creative pursuits give them a chance to process and channel their emotions.

Practice gratitude

According to the CDC, gratitude is one of the best-kept secrets for reducing stress. Practicing gratitude with your child can shift their perspective and remind them of all the good things in their life.

Try to incorporate gratitude exercises into your child’s routine. Here are a few activities to try:

  • Start a gratitude jar. Decorate a jar with your child using glitter, ribbons and markers. Write “Things I’m Thankful For” on the jar. Every time your child is thankful for something, even something small like a delicious chocolate chip cookie, they can write it down and put it in the jar. Then when your child is having a particularly rough day, you can revisit the jar together.
  • Make a collage. Create a collage of all the things your child is thankful for. Ask your child to make a list and then find pictures of those things in magazines, or make your own! Combine those pictures into a beautiful collage that your child can look at when they’re feeling down and need a reminder of the positive things in life.
  • Write thank you notes. When your child receives gifts from their friends or family, always write a thank you note with them. Make them part of the process by having them sign their name (if they’re not old enough, stickers work great here!) or reading the card out loud to them.

Catch some zzz’s

If your child seems extra stressed or irritable lately, the culprit could be a lack of sleep. Sleep helps lower cortisol levels and reduces anxiety.

To help your child sleep better, try setting a strict sleep routine. Your child’s bedtime should be the same every night to help regulate their sleep. Take some time before bed to help your child unwind with a warm bath or storytime. Try to limit the amount of screen time before bed as this can disrupt your child’s sleep.

To help your child fall asleep, practice muscle relaxation techniques and deep breathing exercises before bed. There are also children’s books to read to help with breathing techniques. Check out Breathe Like a Bear by Kira Willey that helps kids connect with their bodies, breath and emotions.

Try these tips to help kids relieve stress

We hope these techniques will help your child de-stress and experience happier, healthier days. Remember that it’s important as a parent to take care of yourself and manage your own stress levels. Check out this article on self-care activities for parents for ideas on how to make time for yourself each day. 

All children and families are unique. Have questions about how to implement these practices within your family? Contact your local Child Care Resource & Referral agency.