When I asked a focus group I conducted with kids between 7 and 11 years of age, what their top three stresses are, they all agreed the No. 1 stress in their lives is achievement stress, as discussed in my previous blog, The Lower the Stress, the Higher the Grades. I could have guessed that, but I was pretty shocked when I heard what their next two major stresses are!
The Second Major Stress:
The Stress of their Parents and Teachers.
These kids were very vocal about the fact that they are super-aware when their parents felt stressed. This makes them feel, “afraid and helpless. ‘ As one child put it, “I want to help my mom when she is stressed but I don’t know how.” Another said, ‘I am afraid because I don’t know what he will do next – will my dad shout at me or just be quiet and not speak?’
They had lots of fun speaking about the stress of their teachers! This seemed to be very amusing to them … “when our teacher comes into class and she is stressed we all know it. So we behave badly and she gets more stressed and we behave more badly and then she goes kaboom!”
As one 11 year boy said, “as long as my parents or my teacher don’t take the stress out on me, I can handle it. But it is usually taken out on me, and then I feel bad.”
Listen Up! Here’s what the children are telling us!
They know when their parents and teachers are stressed; they feel it and they absorb it. What they don’t understand is why the adults around them don’t deal with their own stress and “why it just goes on and on.” They don’t understand why the adults around them are not happy, relaxed, calm, centered and filled with laughter and joy! And this makes them feel anxious and insecure.
The Third Major Stress:
Keeping up with the Materialistic Values of other Kids.
Here’s a shocking statement made by one of the girls, ‘If I don’t have a blackberry I’m a lowly.’ (a ‘lowly?! – is this a new word? Certainly makes the point! ) And another child says, “If I don’t get as much attention on Facebook as my friends do, I feel depressed.” Then there is the peer pressure to have trendy clothes and the latest gadgets and music. To quote, “I often get stressed about who wears nicer stuff’.
The time for denial is over.
In my workshops I describe stress as the huge pink elephant with a black cowboy hat in the room that everyone is ignoring. Stress is becoming a silent killer. 95% of all diseases begin with stress. Sure, the reality is that we all face tremendous pressure. But, as adults, we can choose not to respond in highly stressed ways and fall into bed in a stressed-out heap. Our children cannot choose a stress-less way of life, if we don’t!
As thinking adults we can choose to stop for a moment, look at ourselves through the eyes of our children, switch the treadmill down to low and take classes on how to reconnect with that wonderful spirit at the core of our being. This is the place inside us where we feel good enough and special enough. It is only when we are connected to our own special spirit that we can see the specialness of our children and intuitively know how to help them. And when we stop and reconnect with our true spirit something wondrous happens. Our values in life will spontaneously change. We will begin to cherish values such as being authentic, being present at all times, having a larger purpose than oneself, empathy for others, the importance of true meaningful connection and living a healthy, stress-less lifestyle. As our children watch us living these kinds of values, so they too will reconnect with their own awesome spirit and discover how special they really are!
The question I am asked the most every day is, “how can I help my child?” And my answer is that it begins with you helping yourself first. This is why if a plane crashes, you are instructed to put your oxygen mask on first before you help your kids. The first step to healing all learning, mood and behavior challenges that your children face is to Take Charge! of your own stress first. I hope that this blog will help you see yourself through the eyes of your children so that you can become the person they need you to be.