Healthy Family | Home Safety | Health and Wealth | Relationship Issues | Career Advice | Growing Family
Get the SixWise e-Newsletter FREE!
Google Web
Free Newsletter Subscription
Get the Web's Most trusted & Informative Health, Wealth, Safety & More Newsletter -- FREE!


Share Email to a Friend Print This

How To Role Model Effective Stress Reduction Strategies For Your Kids
by Rachel G. Baldino, MSW, LCSW for

We all know that life can be extraordinarily stressful for both parents and children, but before considering how you can reduce the amount of stress in your life, it's important to look at some of its root causes.

Guilt and Pressure

For starters, many parents lead exhausting, ultra-busy lives due to a number of internal and external pressures. There are quite literally not enough hours in the day to keep up with all of our responsibilities at home and at work, so sometimes things slide in one department or the other, and when this happens, we tend to feel guilty and stressed out.

For instance, your boss may insist that you stay late at work one night to complete a project, which may prevent you from attending your child's dance recital. In such a scenario, you feel you can't exactly say no to your boss, so your child ends up feeling disappointed, and you end up feeling even guiltier and more stressed out than usual.

We can teach our kids to relax and enjoy themselves more.


In addition to guilt and pressure, another source of stress for many parents and children is over-scheduling. Of course, as I have already mentioned, life these days is incredibly busy, but if you intentionally overbook your schedule-or your children's schedules-be aware that this behavior may have serious emotional and health consequences for all of you.

Fortunately, this phenomenon is now being studied and written about more and more frequently, so people are rapidly becoming more aware of the downside of having an over-booked schedule.

Remember that as a parent, it's important to demonstrate to your children the benefits of quiet, peaceful, unscheduled time. In other words, you want to strongly encourage your kids to develop their inner lives as well as their public lives, and role modeling is the most effective way to do this.

So be sure to set aside an adequate amount of "down time," not only for your kids, but for yourself as well.

On a related note, enrolling children in too many extracurricular activities can really stress them out. Generally speaking, kids seem to gain more satisfaction from focusing on a few interests that they truly enjoy. Just like adults, they tend to suffer physically and emotionally when they spread themselves too thin.

Also, if you don't overbook their schedules now, perhaps they won't over-schedule their own lives as they get older. Besides, if you allow your children to focus their energy on a handful of their favorite hobbies (soccer and piano, for example), they will continuously gain more and more skills in these areas, which will in turn boost their self-esteem.

The Importance of Healthy, Ongoing,
Two-Way Communication Between Parents and Their Children

The first major point to consider regarding children and stress is communication. It's great to ask your young children some open-ended questions about school or camp or daycare, particularly if they seem nervous or agitated about something.

But proceed gingerly, listen carefully, and look for cues about their anxiety level.
You know your children better than anyone else, which means that you are the best at reading their stress signals.

For instance, if you ask your five-year-old daughter about her art class, and she starts curling a lock of hair around her finger-just as she always does when she is feeling anxious-change the subject. In other words, don't push your kids to engage in conversations about particular topics when they don't want to because this may only increase their anxiety level.

They will tell you their stories about school experiences, friends, teachers and other important subjects when they are good and ready, so there are times when it's best just to let them initiate the story-telling process. After all, children take a little longer both to form their opinions and to articulate them. Rest assured that they will eventually discuss what matters to them the most, but they will do it on their own schedules.

Now, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, if you are concerned that your child may be getting bullied, you do need to gather all the facts as quickly as possible, so you may need to ask her some difficult questions. But even then, it is essential to be very gentle, so as not to make your child feel as if she is being interrogated. (And of course, if you are concerned about something related to school, you ought to arrange to speak with her teachers as well).

Reduce Your Children's Stress
by Reducing Your Own Stress

Now that you have considered some possible causes of your own stress, how can you reduce it? Most parents have an innate understanding that their children are like little sponges, absorbing whatever is going on in their emotional environments.

Therefore, if you are stressed out all the time, not only will your children pick up on your nervous energy, but they may also absorb some of it and become just as anxious and stressed out as you are.

On the other hand, if you actively engage in your own effective stress management techniques, your children will observe and internalize these lessons, ultimately incorporating them into their own lives. After all, as their parents, you are their most important role models.

Also, therapists, doctors, and other helping professionals have long understood that when people take proper care of themselves, they are better equipped to take care of others. This means that as a parent, you really need to take care of yourself, not only for your own sake, but for the sake of your children as well, and one very effective way to care for yourself is to reduce your stress level.

Eight Practical, Effective Stress Reduction
Strategies for Parent/Role Models

Parents can 'role model' effective stress management techniques for their children.

  1. Simplify your home life in as many ways as possible. For example, put yourself on a "Do not call" list to ward off telemarketers. Also, if you have a home office, keep your desk well organized so that you always know where to find whatever you might need, and make sure to shut off your computer, fax machine, work-related cell phones, etc. after 6:00 p.m., so that for the most part at least, your work life does not intrude upon your home life. Your family will be most grateful.

  2. Minimize the level of "emotional drama" in your life. Inevitably, we all encounter negative, toxic people from time to time. We can't control how they behave, but we can control how we react to their negative behavior. We can also try not to allow their nastiness to occupy too much precious space in our hearts and minds.

    Not only will this help you, but it will also help your children in two critical ways. First, you will be role modeling that they do not need to keep toxic people in their lives. Secondly, from a parental self-care perspective, by reducing the emotional toxicity in your own life, you will be protecting yourself, thereby making yourself more emotionally available to your children.

  3. Confide in a trusted friend. If you have a dear friend who is great at making you laugh, or at helping you regain your sense of perspective when you are having a rotten day, this is one of the best "de-stressing" remedies in existence.

  4. Exercise. Working out when you feel anxious, stressed, or even depressed, can help you release your anxiety, tension and blues in a very healthy and constructive way. For example, a brisk walk outdoors (particularly if the weather is nice) can do wonders to boost your mood.

  5. Pursue your own hobbies and interests, (and encourage your children to develop some of their own). If you enjoy gardening or writing or painting, don't stop just because you are busy with your family. Of course, you won't be able to pursue your hobbies quite as actively as you did before you had children, but that doesn't mean you should stop doing them completely.

    Not only will you decrease your stress level by doing what you enjoy, but you will also be role modeling the importance of developing personal hobbies for your children.

  6. Keep your Sense of Humor. We know now that the physical act of laughing actually has physiological and psychological benefits, and stress can certainly take a severe toll on our bodies as well as our minds. So try to combat the negative effects of stress by laughing and enjoying yourself as often as possible. When you are quick to laugh and express joy, you are also teaching your children about the benefits of humor.

  7. Begin and end your day as calmly as possible. It's very hard for parents to have a peaceful start to the day. Sleepy children need to be awakened, breakfast needs to be prepared, lunches need to be packed, etc. But if you make a point of taking five minutes (or a bit longer, if possible), to start your day quietly and peacefully, in whichever way you like-meditating, stretching, doing yoga-then you are setting a peaceful tone for the rest of your day. Similarly, ending the day with quiet music and bed-time stories (instead of loud television) is a surefire way to improve the quality of your family's bed-time routine.

  8. Take mental snap shots of your family life and count your blessings. In this too-busy world with its overly hectic pace, remember to take a moment or two each day to give thanks for your life, for your children, and for all the other things that bring you joy.

About the Author contributing editor Rachel G. Baldino, MSW, LCSW, is the author of the e-book, Loving Simply: Eliminating Drama from Your Intimate Relationships, published in 2006 by, and the print book, Welcome to Methadonia: A Social Worker's Candid Account of Life in a Methadone Clinic, published in 2000 by White Hat Communications.

Her articles have appeared in Social Work Today, The New Social Worker, New Living Magazine, and other publications. After earning her MSW from the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work in1997, she provided counseling services, first at a methadone clinic, and later at an outpatient mental health treatment facility.

Ms. Baldino has been quoted about managing anger in relationships in Kathy Svitil's 2006 book, Calming The Anger Storm, which is part of the Psychology Today Here To Help series. She has also been quoted in such magazines, newspapers and online publications as For Me Magazine, Conceive Magazine, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, The Albany Times Union, The Tallahassee Democrat, Bay State Parent Magazine,,,, The Newhouse News Service, and Indianapolis Woman. She lives with her husband and children in Massachusetts.

Recommended Reading:

Stress Keeping You Awake? Stressed Because You Can't Sleep? Try These Six Tips and Six Lifestyle Habits to Get a Great Night's Sleep!

The Top Six Stressor Areas in Life: How to Recognize & Handle the Stress

Staying Healthy In A Stressful World

To get more information about this and other highly important topics, sign up for your free subscription to our weekly "Be Safe, Live Long & Prosper" e-newsletter.

With every issue of the free newsletter, you’ll get access to the insights, products, services, and more that can truly improve your well-being, peace of mind, and therefore your life!

Share Email to a Friend Print This