8. Let Your Youngster Explore

Preschoolers and kindergartners love to learn, but children learn in different ways. Some parents tend to direct their children too much. Try stepping back and letting your child explore, learn, question, and discover on her own. Instead of constantly saying, “Did you see this? What do you think of that? How do you think this works? What might you do with this?” let your child take the lead. She just might teach you something, and you’ll be reinforcing her confidence in her own learning style.

9. Help Kids De-Stress for School

Once children start school, it’s easy for parents to overschedule them, especially kids with many interests. Music lessons, swimming lessons, soccer practice, baby-sitting, T-ball, homework, art class, gymnastics, scouting, socializing with friends, family time, dance class, chores—when do kids have a chance to relax and do nothing? Free time is actually empowering for children. During free time, children get to direct their own activities.

10. Keep Teens Out of Trouble

Being a teenager or a preteenager is always difficult because of the surge of hormonal changes teenagers experience with puberty. Many teenagers suffer from depression, self-doubt, anger, hopelessness, and other intense emotions, even in response to situations adults wouldn’t necessary consider stressful. Many teens today also have to deal with extreme circumstances, from a nasty divorce at home to the threat or actual occurrence of violence in or after school.

It’s a tricky job, parenting a teen, and many parents get by with their fingers crossed. But even if your teen resists sharing her intense emotions with you, make sure she always knows she can. Keep the lines of communication open and pay attention so that you’ll notice when your teen’s stress level escalates.

11. Help Your Stressed-Out Teen

Here are some important things you can do for your stressed-out teen:

• Be consistent.

• Don’t lose your temper.

• Let your teen know you are always there; be a solid foundation.

• Let your teen know you love her, no matter what.

• Let your teen know he can always count on you to help him if he’s in trouble.

• Make it clear what behaviors you think are wrong, and why.

• Set a good example by practicing stress management yourself.

• Provide opportunities for your teen to practice stress management techniques with you.

• Keep talking.

• Don’t give up!

12. Be a Role Model

Healthy kids are more likely to handle the average stresses of life with ease. Lay the foundation for great health habits by teaching your kids how to take care of themselves. Set a good example by practicing good health habits yourself. You might also try these tips:

• Serve water instead of sugary drinks.

• Keep healthy snacks in the house instead of junk food.

• Encourage daily activity. If kids aren’t involved in school sports, look into other organized fitness opportunities.

• Make exercise a family affair. Walk, ride bicycles, jog, or run together.

• Encourage self-expression. Many kids enjoy drawing, making things out of clay, building structures, or writing.

13. Make Time for Family

Making time for family or for just doing nothing is important for teaching kids that overachieving isn’t always the answer. Reserve at least one evening each week as family night. Encourage a leisurely, relaxed evening together with no scheduled activities. Play games, make dinner together, talk, laugh, and take a walk or a bike ride. Your kids will always remember this together time, and these evenings put a nice pause in busy schedules.

14. Encourage Communication

Keep the lines of communication open. Let your kids know you are there to listen, and let them know what things are important to you. You know those commercials that tell you to talk to your kids about smoking, drinking, or drugs? Those are all important discussions, but you can also talk to your kids about other things that are potential stressors, like peer pressure, how they are enjoying or not enjoying different classes in school, how they feel about the various activities with which they are involved, who their friends are, and how they feel about themselves.

15. Follow the Seven Steps

Memorizing a few stress management strategies can give kids access to help when they need it most—during a test, on a date, before a big performance. Show this list to your kids, post it on the refrigerator, or, better yet, e-mail it to them. They might just read it, and they might even use it.

1. Talk about it. Feeling stressed? Tell a friend. Call it a vent, a rant, or a rage, but do it! Share your stress daily and you’ll ease the burden. Listen to a friend venting stress and ease your friend’s burden, too.

2. Go with the flow. Things aren’t what you expected? That friend isn’t who you thought? That class is way harder than you think you can handle? Go with the flow. Move along with changes in your life rather than resist them.

3. Find a mentor. Parents are great, but sometimes you feel more ready for advice from a nonparental adult. Teachers, counselors, coaches, bosses, aunts, uncles, ministers, priests, or other adult friends who have already been through what you are going through can make great mentors.

4. Get organized. That test wouldn’t be so stressful if you hadn’t lost all your notes. You might be able to relax a little more easily in your room if you could get from the door to the bed without stepping on piles of junk. Work out a system that you can live with, and get organized.

5. Establish good habits now. You’ve probably seen adults who have obviously led a life of bad health habits and are paying for it now. This doesn’t have to be you. If you start forming good health habits while you are still a kid, you’ll have a healthier life ahead of you.

6. Adjust your attitude. Sometimes it’s easiest to be cynical or expect the worst, but studies show that people who have a positive attitude get sick less often, recover from sickness and injuries faster, and may even live longer. Life is a lot more fun when you look on the positive side.

7. See the big picture. Life may seem to revolve around that humiliating thing you said in front of the whole class last week or that failing grade or the team you didn’t make. Whenever things seem horrible or hopeless, remind yourself to step back and look at the big picture.

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