1. Food Stress: Talk To Your Food
Mealtimes and food fussiness can be very stressful for parents and for kids. When I noticed that my daughter was refusing to even LOOK at her despised meal, I thought a game where she talks with her food and has a conversation with it would make a difference.
The aim, energetically speaking, is to break down the barriers of resistance and naturally encourage curiosity between her and her food, as opposed to total hatred!
Simply pop a food item on a fork and ‘talk’ to your child. Introduce itself, describe its characteristics and be honest. “Hi I’m Pasta. What’s your name? I’m a little slippery and slidy, but I’m lots of fun too! I like to be coated in all kinds of sauces and I taste really good when I’m warm!”
They may not instantly gobble down their ‘strange’ dinner, but they are more likely to warm to it in time, by assisting in softening that resistance in this way.
The same approach can be beneficial for things that they are afraid of, such as darkness or a particular item.
If the food or item has a reputation for being mean and scary, maybe they could apologise for that first!
* More communication = less stress!
2. People Stress: De-Stress By Roleplaying
Like everyone else, kids get stressed by other kids and other people. One way to tackle stress that relates to other people can be roleplay. This is helpful especially for school-aged children who can daily come up against challenges with friendships and difficult situations.
Roleplaying helps them to get their bearings on right and wrong and to confidently respond to things in the future.
Explain to your child that you can practice being in that situation with them and they can be the other person. Them being the other person can be empowering and help them move from being stuck or scared into being more relaxed.
It’s important that they feel in control of the situation, especially when something is threatening to them. If they don’t want to do it or it isn’t seeming to be fun to them, it’s time to stop.
With the roleplaying, try and keep it light and that might mean going over the top so it’s clear that it’s PLAY and not necessarily a threat or danger. That can be with things such as tone of voice, actions and words. “You HAVE to play with me and not HER. If you don’t, I will tell the teacher and you’ll get in TROUBLE!”
It can be a great way to process something difficult that happened or just to do whenever your child raises it as something that they’d like to do.
* Role play and resolve stressful situations.
3. Life Stress: Information & Play
What is your child stressing about?
Noticing what situations your child is playing with, again and again, can be seen as an invitation – that the situation is something they are trying to process and may need more information about.
Your child may have confusions about ways of the world yet not know how to put that into words to ask.
For example, when my children saw a family movie where the walls broke, water pipes sprayed everywhere and ceiling collapsed, they were shocked and confused. Wondering how they would know if that could happen to OUR house one day, and feeling scared about that.
So if a fear such as this one is showing up in play, go into the game, if it feels right, and be a character in the game that has information to share. “Just pretend that this Lego man is a builder..” and go along with the game. “You fix the walls, right?” “Oh yes,” says Lego man, “But these walls are very strong and made of brick so they don’t break easily! Look at me hammering them and using cement!”.
You may get interesting requests in the process of play, such as “pretend that your character died” or “pretend that the car exploded”. Go along with these things as they arise without censorship or judgement like “Don’t say that!”. (This may be an early version of your teenager feeling comfortable confiding in you..)
Responding openly and honestly is going to relax your kids about ever feeling stressed, unsure or confused.
These are just some ways to support them, help release stress and at the same time feel playful and easy.
* There are more ideas for how to support children in Kelly Burch’s new book, “Parenting With Heart & Soul”.