Father drawing with daughter

What You Can Do About Your Children’s Stress

We know that stress levels can run high regardless of your job or background. But what about your age? New research shows that while kids may not have stacks of bills or problems at work to worry about, they bear a heavy burden of stress.

The recent study, covered in a New York Times article, found that more than 80 percent of high school students in Irvine, California experienced moderate to severe anxiety, while more than 50 percent had moderate to severe depression. The Times reports that these alarming numbers hold true across the country for children of all age groups and economic backgrounds.

Now more than ever, we need to help our children manage their stress and thrive in the face of challenges, academic or otherwise. Below are three ways to foster resilience in your kids.

1. Say no to over-scheduling! When kids are overscheduled, the consequences can include depression, anxiety, a lack of creativity, and weakened problem solving skills. Your child may find greater stress relief—as well as improved academic performance—with a better balance of work and play.

Here’s some evidence in support of cancelling that third (or fourth) extracurricular: One study shows that unstructured play encourages children to develop flexibility and practice the social skills needed to adapt to change, which serves them well as adults in an unpredictable world. Use that newfound time to let your kids be kids—and the more the merrier. Our research shows that people in our program who have strong social connections tend to be more resilient. For kids, friendships are key to healthy social and emotional development in childhood and beyond.

2. Encourage their creativity. We once wrote about the power of creativity to make you more resilient. This principle holds true for school-age children, too. Is your child drawn to sketching? Theater? Singing? Give them a chance to express their creative side—and celebrate their accomplishments.

One way to help your children express their creativity: Limit their screen time. Research shows that children’s creativity is on the decline—and technology is part of the problem. For screen-time limits, you might try changing your home wi-fi password daily and sharing it only after a certain time of day or when your child completes a particular activity.

3. Strive for your own healthy habits. You set the tone for your kids. When you consistently strive to take care of yourself, you give them a living, breathing example of resilience. Each day, you can work on eating healthy food, moving your body, getting rest, and making time for fun. You can also work on managing your negative thoughts and deep-seated beliefs to reduce their stressful power over you.

As your actions quietly teach your children how to be resilient, make sure they have the time and resources to learn these habits, too. It’s the day-after-day practice that will make your kids (and you) resilient for a lifetime.