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Holistic Solutions to Stress
doesn’t talk much about an activity
(a sign of genuine interest), it could
by lisa marshall
be a wake-up call. Ask your child
to make a list of his or her favorite
interests, in order of priority, Fay
A bit of childhood stress is inevitable,
suggests, and trim off the bottom.
and can even be motivating when taken
On the flip side, Fay counsels
in small doses, experts say. But parents
that too little structure at home
can do much to help kids better man-
can be stressful for kids; they look
age it.
to their parents to demonstrate
Set aside relaxation time: “There is such
assertiveness and provide the
a thing as preventative mental health,”
boundaries that make them feel
says Lawrence Shapiro, Ph.D., author
safe. “If you have anxious kids,
of The Relaxation and Stress Reduction
one question to ask is, ‘Am I setting
Workbook for Kids. “You wouldn’t let enough limits and sticking to those
your kids go a day without brushing their limits?’”
teeth. Don’t let them go a day without
sionflower, for quieting a child in the
relaxing.”
throes of a stressful moment. Lavender,
in either a tea or a bath, can be effec-
school-age solutions
He recommends that children of all
ages carve out at least 15 minutes each
tive in reducing anxiety. Better yet,
By far, the most common cause
day for focused relaxation. Put on sooth-
brew some tea and allow your child to
of school-age anxiety (particularly
ing music, ask them to breathe deeply
sit in the bath with it for 20 minutes,
amid middle-to-upper-income
and close their eyes, and then leave them
breathing in the lavender-laced steam. suburban kids) is academic stress.
alone.
Numerous studies show that
Exercise: Shapiro and Webb both rec-
adolescents place schoolwork
Sleep: Sleep produces the calming, feel-
ommend at least 30 minutes of free,
above friend problems, bullying
good brain chemical serotonin, while
outdoor play per day.
and trouble at home when ranking
lack of sleep results in too much of the
stressors.
“fight-or-flight” brain chemical, cortisol.
Limit screen time: Never allow your
One recent Stanford Uni-
A child who doesn’t get enough sleep
child to have a TV or computer in their
room, advises parenting expert Charles
versity poll of 496 high school
won’t handle stress as well. According to
the National Sleep Foundation, toddlers
Fay, Ph.D. Also, keep screen time to an
students in California’s Bay Area
need 12 to 14 hours and preschoolers
absolute minimum for youths under 2
found that when students were
11 to 13 hours. Kids ages 5 to 12 do well
years old. Keep the volume down (loud
asked to list what causes the most
with 10 to 11 hours of sleep and teens
noises can aggravate stress) and be par- stress in their lives, 68 percent
with about 9 hours.
ticularly wary of television if your child cited schoolwork. Nearly 78 per-
is already prone to hyperactivity.
cent reported having experienced
Nutrients: Brandy Webb, a natur-
“If kids are predisposed to hyper-
stress-related physical problems
opathic doctor in Tacoma, Washington,
activity, too much TV will exacerbate
like headaches, weight gain,
and adjunct faculty member at Bastyr
that predisposition,” Shapiro notes.
insomnia or stomach problems. In
University, says certain nutrients can go
Also, overuse of electronic media—
some cases, excess stress turns to
a long way in counteracting the physical
such as video games and Internet social
groups—could be a warning sign that
depression and tragedy can strike.
impacts of stress. Omega-3 fatty acids,
found in fatty fish, flax seed, certain nuts
the child is stressed. “A lot of the most
“Kids are more stressed than
and dietary supplements, can counteract
stressed-out kids I deal with gravitate
in the past for a whole host of
the inflammatory response that comes
toward those things as unhealthy cop-
reasons, and it is a big problem,”
with stress. This also helps fend off prob-
ing mechanisms,” comments Webb. confirms education researcher and
lems such as headaches and muscle
While social networking tools Stanford lecturer, Denise Pope.
aches, which can come with stress-
like Facebook, instant messaging and
“There is more emphasis on test-
induced inflammation.
Internet chat rooms don’t necessarily
ing, and kids feel the pressure from
Stressed-out kids burn through criti-
cause stress, experts advise, a child who
their teachers. Homework levels
cal nutrients, particularly calcium, so
spends too much time with them may
have gone up significantly. They
a balanced diet is critical. Magnesium
get behind on homework, adding to
feel like they are the hope for the
supplements are known to help relieve
their stress.
future, and the pressure is on.”
anxiety and stress. Vitamins C and E
Worse yet, they’ll rob themselves
boost immune function.
of time spent playing face-to-face with
Research supports Pope’s
friends outdoors in the fresh air. Watch
conclusion, including a 2004
Botanicals: Webb recommends calming
any kid at play: There is no better stress
University of Michigan survey of
herbal tinctures, such as catnip and pas-
reliever.
28 Phoenix
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