Children with fluency disorders (stuttering and cluttering), auditory processing disorders, ADHD, and other disorders tend to have increased difficulty with high stress situations. Increased stress levels can make them effectively fall apart and become disorganized. It is very difficult to be successful when you are not organized, as you probably know very well. So what are some things you can do to help de-stress your child?
Parents obviously want the best for their children. Sometimes, however, the things we do to help our children can create extra stress for them. We tend to overload our children with extra activities to help them be more well-rounded and have more opportunities; we have dance, violin, soccer, gymnastics, piano, and then, find some time to do your homework! While we want to give our children every opportunity, the overload may be more detrimental than beneficial. Try to limit out of school activities to one a day or less if possible. If they have one activity on Tuesdays and Thursdays, set up another for Monday and Wednesday. Friday can be their day to catch up on some relaxation. Too many activities can create stressful schedules and be disorganizing and difficult to keep up with mentally.
Try not to use time constraints as a punishment or threat. Activities are usually seen as a reward. So, we might say something like, “if you don’t finish your homework, we can’t go to soccer.” This, however, adds more stress to an already stressful activity. Children may try to rush through homework so they don’t miss their activities or disappoint you. Instead, try to set up helpful situations and let them know that they can take their time and really focus hard on their homework. Try not to point out that soccer practice is about to start. It’s important that your child knows that academics are important and that there will be time for other things later.
Don’t be rushed, even if you’re running late for an activity. Children get their cues from you, so if you are running around like a headless chicken, they are more inclined to feel stressed and possibly guilty for not getting to the car fast enough. Set up schedule boards or set a timer to help keep on track. If they didn’t finish their homework and you don’t want them to miss out on an activity, set up some time after they get home, or wake up a few minutes earlier the next morning to finish up. It will be easier for your child to focus after a good night’s sleep than when it’s 15 minutes past their regular bedtime. Let them know not to worry and that they will have time in the morning to finish (if they are up all night worrying about finishing homework, that won’t be a good thing either).
Break up the chaos at home. Especially when there is more than one child at home, it can be hard to coordinate schedules so that everyone can sit around the dinner table, but, this is one of the most important things for children to have. It sets up a stable base and helps to reorganize after a long day. Even if you can’t coordinate a time for everyone to eat together, it is important that children sit down and separate eating from other activities. Try not to let your child eat dinner by his or her self. At least one other family member should sit with them and share the meal. Though not ideal, if you have to eat in the car on the way to an activity, take a few minutes in the parking lot to eat dinner and include some calm conversation to make it as close to a regular meal as possible.