You don’t plan for it to happen, but sometimes the stress creeps in over the holidays. And your children, being the sensitive little souls that they are, often feel it too, whether they can articulate it or not. So how can you make the holidays a little easier and more enjoyable? We’re delighted to share seven musical ways to make your holidays less stressful – for you and your child.
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”8342″ img_size=”620×288″ alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Ok…I’m about to tell you all something you already know…our babies, our toddlers, our kids…they feel stress! We “old” folks don’t have a monopoly on this lovely feature of the human condition. Now think about this: we are supposed to have things together by adulthood, but let’s face it, how many times do you get into a situation and look around for a more “adultier” adult than you!? We are supposed to have a developed sense of self-awareness that allows us to – hopefully – use developed coping strategies to process stress in a heathy way. Now…imagine an infant or toddler experiencing a stressful situation. Not only might the situation be new, they are still figuring out how to respond! This can compound stress in a child. No fun, right?
Recently, the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University (I’ve heard of this Harvard – supposedly they’re pretty smart, guys) posted about ways to mitigate (Ivy League lingo for the win!) toxic stress in kids. The main idea? If we can’t help kids deal with stress, the health development of the next generation might be thrown of the tracks and “can have damaging effects on learning, behavior, and health across the lifespan.” So…what can we do?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Responses to Stress
The Center defines three types of responses to stress and how these responses impact the body:
- Positive – this is common and often short-lived. New babysitter? Perhaps a new food to try? A child might experience this type of response. Think a short rise in heart rate.
- Tolerable – Often the result of a loss of a loved one or perhaps experiencing something scary like breaking a bone. This can last longer than the Positove response. With an environment of supportive adult relationships, the effects of this type of stress can have a buffering impact and help a child recover.
- Toxic – this is longer lasting and can be a result of such awful things as neglect, abuse, or the results of economic hardship – and occurs when supportive relationships are not present.
One aspect of these supportive relationships is “Serve and Return.” As it turns out, a tennis match of interactions between our children and caring adults has a positive impact on developing brain structures, stress levels, and processing stress in a healthy way. From the Center:
“When an infant or young child babbles, gestures, or cries, and an adult responds appropriately with eye contact, words, or a hug, neural connections are built and strengthened in the child’s brain that support the development of communication and social skills. Much like a lively game of tennis, volleyball, or Ping-Pong, this back-and-forth is both fun and capacity-building. When caregivers are sensitive and responsive to a young child’s signals and needs, they provide an environment rich in serve and return experiences.”
As you build the circle of positive interactions for your child, you increase the child’s ability to respond to the world, learning that these “tall people” really care, and it would seem that the earlier this occurs, the better.
Now…think about the types of interactions that occur during Kindermusik classes. See a connection? I do! When taking part in regular group musical activities lead by a caring adult, a child’s circle of positive relationships grows. Singing together, call and response activities (a musical version of “serve and return”), and group movement, all can have a positive impact on stress levels. Did you know that groups that sing together can sync their heart beats? Crazy, right?
So consider this the next time your child is overwhelmed by the world around them…and not just when they are anxious to go to bed at night…sing a song together, dance together, or get out some pots and use them as drums. You bang and then have them mimic you. Music can reduce those hormone levels, singing can control breathing, and that stress response can be brought back to a healthy place.
Friends…the power of music![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Relaxation is something we all search for, yet we don’t always find time for it. Life can be stressful and fast-paced, and it’s often difficult to find time to let our bodies and minds relax. Sometimes even when we’re “relaxing” we’re thinking about what’s next on the to-do list!
Adults stress tend to stress about grown-up things like the responsibilities of maintaining a family, paying the bills, and so on. But children experience stress too. They may not be able to express it, but here are some behaviors that could be signs of stress:
- > mood changes
- > changes in sleep patterns or nightmares
- > exhibiting behaviors of a younger age (thumb sucking, bedwetting, clinging, etc.)
- > no appetite or wanting to eat all the time
- > needing to go to the bathroom frequently
- > nail biting
- > engaging in disruptive behavior
If you notice some sudden changes in your child’s behavior, stress could be a factor.
You may ask what on earth could they be stressed about? After all, they don’t have any bills to pay! Children tend to experience stress in new situations, when changes happen, or when they are confronted with challenges that require new skills. These might include learning to play with a new toy, learning to share with a sibling, making new friends, completing a project, and so on.
But don’t get stress yourself! Parents and caregivers can model and teach children ways to manage stress. Here are a few suggestions:
- > keep a consistent routine
- > make sure the child is getting enough sleep
- > if the source of stress can be removed, simply remove it
- > laugh, joke, sing, dance
- > set aside some quiet time
- > do something active to relieve stress, like jumping, running, or playing
- > do a creative, calming activity like coloring
These activities will help your child learn to manage stress and deal with challenging situations. (Of course, if a behavior persists or becomes a serious issue, you may need to consult your physician.)
The goal is simple: make your kids feel good. When they feel good, you feel good!
What other activities can we do with our children to help them manage stress? Post an idea in the comments area below.
Special thanks to Kindermusik educator Vanessa Cabrera for sharing this post from her Language, Music & More blog. Information about Vanessa’s Maryland Kindermusik program can be found at her blog.