Surprising Stress Relief For Kids

I had a big “lightbulb” moment over the week end.  Every week my sons get a list of spellings and times tables to learn on top of their usual homework and reading and getting it all done can really stress them out because all they want to do is usual “boys stuff”.  However, because I was always good at spellings, and because it is important, I always make a huge effort with them to learn their spellings and times tables and make sure they get top marks whenever possible.

But this week the spellings were noticeably more difficult that the last few weeks.  The words were all similar, 2 or 3 syllables long and all started with either dis, dec, disc, desc or pre – disallow, discipline, decision, description, preview and so on – 20 of them in total. 

One of my sons found the going especially tough.  In particular, when we tackled “desciption” (the only desc- word), he got muddled on all the other words he knew.  He was really trying hard and we were both getting stressed.  I really kept up with the effort though because – to me – spellings are simply a matter of going through them again and again.  However, it just isn’t that simple to everyone and it became clear he’d reached his limit.

I realised that he was not going to get them all right and that it was just the one word that created the chaos in his brain.   So I decided to let go of my own perfectionism, my own targets – and go with his.  I told him to ignore the one spelling and pretend he only had nineteen.  By concentrating on the ones he felt he could do, we boosted his confidence instead of killing it by focusing on the ones he couldn’t.

We proved to him that he could get a perfectly good score in what was going to be a difficult test (he’s 7) and he went into school on the morning of the spelling test feeling relaxed and confident about what he could do. 

Because I had let go of my ideals, my own perfectionism and stopped piling the pressure on him, he became less stressed and so more capable.  It’s not fair for parents to pressurise their kids.  Kids these days have far too much stress in their lives as it is and they just don’t need more from the very people who are supposed to be protecting them and guiding them in this world. 

The Serenity Prayer says:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

And that includes children.  Being a parent is stressful, but there are times when you need to keep that stress to yourself.  Never stress your children with your aspirations. Instead be the stress relief for your children. Being a good parent means that accepting the limitations of your children.  Sure, give them opportunities to grow and develop, encourage them, guide them, teach them and stretch them when they can do more, but have the wisdom to realise when you are flogging a dead horse – and don’t stress them with something they’re not ready for or are just not cut out for – simply because you want them to do it.

I learnt a valuable lesson this weekend.  I learn a new form of stress relief for kids.  My son learnt his spellings.  He did well, but if you want to know exactly how well, you’ve missed the point of this blog post. 🙂 

Leave a comment to let me know what you think.

3 Top Tips To Beat Christmas Stress

Following on from my post on Christmas stress relief, I thought I’d share with you what has worked/is working for me this year so that you too can revel in the same heady delights of stress free-ness (is that a word?  Probably should change it to get the on page SEO right  🙂 ) as I have this year. 

Tip #1  Decide To React Differently

This is a tough one because it can mean that you have to go against your nature, but reframing your perspective is a key stress reliever, and probably the only one you will ever need. 

Taking a hypothetical example totally at random – when your 6 year old twin sons use one of the dogs’ toys to play football (soccer) AGAIN in the living room, and smash some of the Christmas decorations, including a glass bauble which you’ve had since you got married, keep your cool.  Calmly vacuum up the broken glass, reset the decorations and then punish the offending children by setting them 15 lines (six year old boys hate writing) to include at least one of their current spellings and another long word (eg “I am sorry I broke the Christmas decorations playing football inside.”), and confiscate their DSi game chips until said lines are finished.

Tip #2  Accept That Good Enough Will Do

The festive period is a time for celebration, for eating good food, exchanging gifts and getting together with family and friends.  And somewhere in all of this the meaning of Christmas can get lost.  There is a sad tendency over the festive period, especially amongst women and especially those with visiting in-laws, to feel the need to get everything perfect.  Statistics show that women, on average, “lose it” shortly after 11am on Christmas morning.  They feel the burden of the arrangements and food preparation is heaped on them and it all just gets too much when nobody notices – or cares – that the silver cake decorations you spent half a day looking for, exactly match the napkin designs. 

STOP.

Good enough is good enough.  Christmas will come on the 25th whether you are perfectly ready or not.  And everyone will eat the dinner you prepare whether you have cooked the trimmings perfectly or not.  And Boxing Day will arrive 24 hours later whether you “got it perfect” or “made do”. 

The fact is, your idea of perfect is not the same as someone else’s idea of perfect.  So get it “good enough”, then quit.  Use the extra time you save to get a massage, manicure or just a sit down with a hot (freshly hot – not micro waved up) cup of tea/coffee and take some time to relax.  Christmas is supposed to be a celebration after all!

Tip #3  Decide To Enjoy Your Children

They say that “Christmas is for children” but can it be very hard work for parents.  And when the  darlings are up bright and early and have opened everything by 5am (or earlier!), leaving a room full of wrapping paper, ripped boxes, scattered parts and unassigned presents you are going to have to write and thank people for, it can be easy to lose your sense of humor – especially when you were up late into the night weaving the magic because the little darlings were too excited to go to sleep until late.  And as being woken up so early by his twin leaves your “night owl” son grumpy, argumentative and difficult, it really can be tough to enjoy your children. 

You need to be well rested to enjoy Christmas with children.  And if you aren’t, you need to decide that today you are just going to “coast” and not get stressed by them.  Nobody will mind if you write a thank you letter explaining how much they enjoyed opening the presents.  Children are only young for a very short time.  It is a magical time.  You are blessed.  Go easy on yourself and have fun.  Boxing Day will arrive all too soon.

So there you are, my top tips for a stress free Christmas.  What are yours?