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Lessen Their Stress by Letting Them Be Children

As I read an article on CNN about how to stop your kids from stressing, a line caught my eye:

“Children are innately wired to be happy people, and they tend to live in the moment. We as adults have so much to learn from them.”

I finished with an overwhelming feeling that I am doing okay.

Not perfect.

But certainly okay.

My parents divorced when I was five. I was one of the only kids in my elementary to have divorced parents. While I don’t remember details about a lot of it, I do remember an overwhelming number of arguments and screaming matches between my mom and dad, and later my step-mom. It was a rough situation all around and I have to believe they were doing the best they could with my sisters and my best interests at heart.

Our family lives a very simple existence. We don’t do too much and nothing we do in life is to any sort of extreme. God comes first, family a very close second, friends third and everything else falls into its appropriate place. I spend my time with like minded friends and their families and while some may say we live a sheltered existence, I say we live with a very manageable existence.

My girls are growing up in a home where there are boundaries on almost everything. In some places they’re a little looser, they twist, turn, and meander (such as bedtime and what’s for dinner) while in other places they are strict and straight as an arrow (such as never give your baby sister a knife, or light a match alone.) In all of my preparation to become a mom I learned a few things that seemed to stay true and constant throughout all theories of parenting.

  • Set boundaries.
  • Keep to a schedule.
  • Follow through.
  • Love with your whole heart.

Addie’s days and weeks follow a certain routine. We organize her clothes at the beginning of the school week and she completes her homework upon walking in the door from school and then places it back in her folder to be returned the next day. She plays until Cody comes home, we have dinner as a family and she goes to bed no later than 8:30 on a school night with hugs from everyone and snuggles from the cats. On Tuesdays she has gymnastics which means an extra snack and a late dinner and on Fridays she gets to stay up as late as 9 assuming she’s not too grouchy. On Sundays we go to church and spend the rest of the day together as a family.

I don’t function well when I have too much going and I loathe the feeling of feeling completely exhausted with no end in sight.

The CNN article mentioned “It’s important that they [children] don’t feel like their whole lives are topsy-turvy, that they have parts of the day to look forward to living in the moment and just being a child.” We spent the entire last week together enjoying nothing more than being together and it was a blessing. Perhaps another blessing is Addie’s CVS. If I don’t keep her stress managed and her little body on something resembling a well-rested routine, she gets violently ill. It’s very easy to convince a child that sleep and resting is important when the possible risk is painful vomiting.

I am not naive in the fact that everyone’s life experience is different. Yes, I only have one school-aged child and yes I am able to work from home and have a supportive husband and friends.  What the CNN article gets down to is that kids need to be given moments of opportunity to be kids no matter what life is like around them and that it is the family’s responsibility to decide what core values are most important.

It is not important to us that Addie be the best at gymnastics, top of her class or the fastest runner in gym. What is important to us is that she do her best in gymnastics and have fun, understand what she is being taught in order to keep up and enjoy school be able to run fast enough to escape if a bear happens to chase her. (I kid. Everyone knows if a bear is chasing you it’s more important to know a good song and dance routine.)

Everyone, including children, are going to have moments of stress. Helping them to work through the situation, no matter how small, will help build up their ability to deal with bigger stresses later on.

Permitting our children the opportunity to experience some stress and enabling them to deal with it creates coping capacity. When you are building muscle, you shouldn’t be lifting too many weights. But the right amount can strain your muscles enough to increase strength. Coping is the same way. If it’s the right amount, children build capacity.

Everything I do (or don’t do) for Addie is in an attempt to warm her up to being a grownup with adult problems. I would never throw her headfirst into struggles and shout “GOOD LUCK KID!” Even at seven she has a firm understanding (to her level) as to why we do things the way we do them in our house and how those rules apply to real world situations.

I know I can’t keep Addie stress free nor can I make her follow the guidelines I set up for her now later in life, but I can help her to find peace amidst everything going on to keep her moving forward towards a content and fulfilling life, whatever that may be for her by allowing her moments to truly be a child while she still is one.

 

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