Growing up with conflict in the home can be difficult for children and adolescents alike. High amounts of stress in the home can affect offspring in a number of ways. What researchers are just discovering is that these effects reach further than originally thought. When it comes to stress in the home, there are a variety of ways that children and teens react. Some are able to process their emotions surrounding the stress, and put a positive spin on it, while others internalize the stress, and keep their emotions bottled up. Those who are unable to process their emotions surrounding high levels of stress at home by the time they are teenagers are likely to keep these stress management techniques as adults.
According to a recent research study conducted at Penn State, teenagers who do not process stress, and hold their emotions inside experienced higher blood pressure, greater inflammation, and weaker immune systems than those who were able to process their emotions and feelings surrounding stress at home. While these health impacts may not surface overnight, they are likely to develop later on in life when the teens become adults. This also makes these individuals more susceptible to diseases like cancer over time.
The findings of this research study suggest that children and teenagers with high-stress home environments have an urgent need for support from therapists to help learn to cope with life at home and develop healthy stress management skills. The benefits of such therapeutic interventions are far-reaching. They could literally help extend the lives of such individuals while increasing their overall quality of life. In an effort to help support the health and livelihood of those who are struggling with high levels of stress at home, here are some tips for helping children and adolescents manage stress in healthy ways.
Teach Children and Teens to Identify Their Emotions
It's helpful for children and teenagers to process any emotions they're feeling surrounding stress at home. When they're able to appropriately identify what they are feeling and explore why they are having these feelings, they can begin processing them. Many children and teenagers are not taught about emotional intelligence or asked to identify their emotions in school. It can help to have a feelings sheet that the child/teen can use when emotions build up. Being able to process the emotions they are feeling is the first step toward managing stress in a positive way.
Encourage Participation in Talk or Play Therapy
Having a safe place to express and explore what is going on in reaction to the stress at home is key in processing stress-related emotions. Talk or play therapy are wonderful tools for developing healthy stress-management techniques. Many schools offer an on-site therapist or counselor, and there are also after-school programs, support groups, and practitioners who can help your child or teen process feelings and learn healthy stress-management skills.
Have an Active or Creative Outlet Available
While it's important to get out the feelings that are building up inside, a physical outlet is also helpful. This could be in the form of an after-school sport or participating in something creative such as art, writing, music, theater arts, etc. If a child or teen is too shy to talk about what is going on inside, writing about it, acting it out, or doing something such as playing a sport or music that helps express what is going on inside can be incredibly healing.
Teach Positive Thinking
Learning how to manage one's emotions through positive thinking can completely change the world of a child or teenager. While it's important to express the frustrations of the day and the stress occurring in the home, it can help to have the child or teen think of all of the positive things that are also going on at the same time. Having a list of everything he/she is thankful for can help assist in positive emotional shifts amidst high-stress periods. It can also help to teach them to focus on things that make them happy, and to learn to see the silver lining in every cloud. Teaching a child to see the glass as half full, rather than half empty can help clear up some of the darkness on the inside and to see the light and good in each situation.
Practice EQ Strengthening Exercises
Unlike the IQ, an EQ (emotional quotient) can be increased over time through emotional intelligence strengthening exercises and interventions. There are a variety of ways to help your child or teenager increase his/her level of emotional intelligence. This will help him/her become happier and more successful in school, as well as later in life. Some ways to help increase our EQ include:
- Teaching delayed gratification
- Teaching empathy—imagine being in another person's shoes
- Engaging in charitable contributions and volunteer work
- Emphasizing gratitude and optimism
- Teaching resilience and conflict resolution—seeing the bigger picture
- Allowing children and teens to make mistakes and become frustrated
Use a Micronutrient Supplement to Help Reduce Stress
Recent research conducted by a psychiatrist at Harvard suggests that micronutrients provide a reliable treatment option for helping manage stress, ADHD, depression, certain bipolar disorders, trauma, and more. Implementing such a supplement into your child's daily diet can help increase a sense of calm and focus in the midst of stress or conflict, and allow him/her to feel happier and more grounded throughout the day. If you're interested in trying such a supplement, I recommend the formula developed by Focus Essentials.
Stress at home is a difficult obstacle for children and teenagers to manage. The good news is that it isn't a death sentence. With a bit of extra support and attention, these children can learn healthy ways to manage stress that will carry with them throughout adulthood—helping them combat a variety of health issues related to stress, while living more productive and fulfilling lives.