Sometimes we look at our children and think, “They lead such an easy life”. Yes, they don’t have the same stressors we adults have, but the truth is they are stressed—oftentimes, very stressed. As I travel across the country with The Imagine Project listening to the stories of our children, I continue to be amazed at the struggles that lie in their hearts.
“Imagine…being in advanced classes all of your life, having to meet higher expectations since kindergarten.
“Imagine…growing up in a media and electronic obsessed age, being pressured to be ‘cool’, like celebrities, and do what they do.
“Imagine…growing up on the Internet, being on the computer more than being outside
“Imagine…having more internet friends than real life friends.
This was a story from a very insightful 8th grader. Social media, our fast-paced, high-pressured society, lack of being outdoors are only a few on the long list of issues our kids face today. Even the little ones, 5- 7-year-olds tell stories of moving, losing a pet, even divorce. And in some communities, children face poverty, abuse, even gang issues. Our children are stressed, they need help handling their emotions.
How can parents and teachers help?
- Reflection: The younger they are, the harder it is for them to express how they feel. Reflect back to them what you hear them saying, or even give them options as to how they might be feeling. “It’s hard to get used to having a new baby brother around. I know that would make me mad and sad sometimes.” “It seems like you are still mad about what happened yesterday.” Reflection helps kids understand what they are feeling, gives them the words they might have a hard time finding.
- Listen and touch: We all just need a listening ear. Someone who loves us that won’t judge us when we tell our secrets to. Stop what you are doing and listen to what they are saying—without judgment or trying to fix it. They will most likely figure it out themselves if you just listen and when they are done, gently suggest some ideas that might help. Hold, hug, touch them, or just share some hot chocolate. Making them feel like they are okay in spite of what’s happening is the most important thing you can do for your child/student.
- A tool for expressing themselves. The Imagine Project has a journal for all ages, available for free at theimagineproject.org to help children write about what’s bothering them. There is even a journal for the little ones where they can draw instead of write. It’s a powerful tool to be able to tell your story. When write down what’s bothering us and even read it to someone who will listen with an open heart, we just feel better. The best part; is kids get to write a new story, imagining whatever they want to in life.
Life is stressful for all of us, no matter what the age. Learning to cope with stress in a healthy way, at the earliest age possible, is extremely important. If your child is acting out or being unusually quiet, chances are something is bothering them. Check in, ask, listen, their stories will probably amaze, and even entertain you!
Go to www.theimagineproject.org for more information about our free journals.