Updated: May 16
By Christy | the Practicing Pro
Is my child too stressed? How can I tell? Stress is an important part of life - all children are stressed from time to time but how much is too much? What should you look for and what do you do when you see signs of stress in your child?
Having conversations about stress with our students and our children can be a tricky and sensitive task when it’s constant and related to doing too many activities. Having a busy schedule isn’t necessarily a bad thing, But sometimes it’s hard to recognize when being busy is causing stress and could lead to burnout in your child or student.
This is a three-part series about doing multiple activities with your children.
See part 1 - HERE
See part 2 - HERE
Today in part 3 -
Let’s look at a variety of signs and symptoms of stress to watch out for. If you know what stress can look like in children then you can better watch for it on your own. Knowing the signs and watching for them beforehand is the BEST way to be able to be ready to nip it in the bud! Also, if you see a lot of these signs now, then you can make changes right away. You can also get professional help if needed.
I have collected tips from specialists, researchers, parents and from my own experience. Remember that every child is unique, and their symptoms of stress will show in just as many different ways. Also, not all stress is bad and it is a natural part of life. Stress in real-life ebbs and flows and as a parent you want to support your child and listen to them to help them develop resilience. You never want to remove all stress from a child but instead, you want to help them work through it.
However, In this mini-series, we are looking at too many activities so let’s keep that specifically in mind and make sure that your child’s daily load isn’t causing them constant stress over and above the regular and natural stress of life.
Here are common signs of stress in children to look for:
Does your child have some of these physical or emotional behaviors happening lately or on a regularly occurring basis during the school year? and less during break or in the summer?
If so - I encourage you to read or reread through part 1 and part 2 of this mini-series and learn how to understand Funnels and “Running with the Pack”.
If YES and you see your child is possibly experiencing too much stress from over programming then a change can be made before the new year starts. This is the best time to make a change instead of mid-year.
Knowing your child’s needs help can be scary! If you have really observed them though and know they are doing too many things and have identified their large funnels that you know they should keep developing as well as the communities that are a healthy place for them to grow up in then it's much easier to say “goodbye” to any smaller funnels that may not be benefiting your child long term as much. Once you clearly identify their biggest funnels and strongest most positive packs, I promise, the decision to let things go is much easier.
If you have concluded that your child's daily stress load is in check, their funnels and packs are GREAT and you have even found some ways to help make their packs stronger than BRAVO!
Regular life has ups and downs of STRESS. This is healthy and as parents and teachers, we need to teach a child how to be RESILIENT to stress and not just take it away for them.
The following tips are from Johns Hopkins Medicine on helping parents to cope with healthy amounts of stress. I have added additional examples common with musicians too!
#1 Notice out loud.
Tell your child when you notice that something's bothering him or her. If you can, name the feeling you think your child is experiencing.
This shouldn't sound like an accusation (as in, "OK, what happened now? Are you still mad about that?") or put a child on the spot. It's just a casual observation that you're interested in hearing more about your child's concerns. Be sympathetic and show you care and want to understand.
Try saying this, followed by listening to them without interrupting (see #2)
“It seems like…”
"It seems like you're still mad about what happened at the playground."
“It seems like you are nervous about the concert coming up.”
“It seems like you don’t want to play this piece...can you point to the part that is frustrating you the most.”
#2 Listen to your child.
Ask your child to tell you what's wrong. Listen attentively and calmly — with interest, patience, openness, and caring. Avoid any urge to judge, blame, lecture, or say what you think your child should have done instead. The idea is to let your child's concerns (and feelings) be heard. Try to get the whole story by asking open ended questions.
Try saying this, followed by amazing listening.
"And then what happened?" Take your time. (And then let your child take his or her time)
”What did you think about that?
#3 Comment briefly on the feelings you think your child was experiencing.
Doing this shows that you understand what your child felt, why, and that you care. Feeling understood and listened to helps your child feel supported by you, and that is especially important in times of stress.
Try saying this, followed by listening
‘"That must have been upsetting,"
"No wonder you felt mad when they wouldn't let you be in the front row,"
"That must have seemed unfair to you to not get chosen to play."
“That must have hurt your feelings.”
#4 Put a label on it.
Many younger kids do not yet have the words for their feelings. If your child seems angry or frustrated, use those words to help him or her learn to identify the emotions by name. Putting feelings into words helps kids communicate and develop emotional awareness — the ability to recognize their own emotions that they are feeling and their emotional state. Kids who can do so are less likely to reach the behavioral boiling point where strong emotions come out through behaviors rather than communicated with words.
Try using my feelings sticks - HERE
#5 Help your child think of things to do.
If there's a specific problem that's causing stress, talk together about what to do. Encourage your child to think of a couple of ideas. You can start the brainstorming if necessary, but don't do all the work. Your child's active participation will build confidence. Support the good ideas and add to them as needed.
Try saying this, and then listening
"How do you think this will work?"
#6 Listen and move on.
Sometimes talking and listening and feeling understood is all that's needed to help a child's frustrations begin to melt away. Afterward, try changing the subject and moving on to something more positive and relaxing. Help your child think of something to do to feel better. Don't give the problem more attention than it deserves.
#7 Limit stress where possible.
If certain situations are causing stress, see if there are ways to change things. For instance, if too many after-school activities consistently cause homework stress or getting practicing done, it might be necessary to limit activities to leave time and energy for homework.
Try watching and observing
If necessary be brave in cutting back on an activity to see if it makes a difference and daily practice and homework are now able to be completed without stress.
#8 Just be there.
Kids don't always feel like talking about what's bothering them. Sometimes that's OK. Let your kids know you'll be there when they do feel like talking. Even when kids don't want to talk, they usually don't want their parents to leave them alone. You can help your child feel better just by being there — keeping him or her company, spending time together. So if you notice that your child seems to be down in the dumps, stressed, or having a bad day — but doesn't feel like talking — initiate something you can do together. Take a walk, watch a movie, shoot some hoops, or bake some cookies. Isn't it nice to know that your presence really counts?
Try making a fun review activity for practice
Really wow them - this is one of my all-time favorite practice activities. Practice can be both fun and unstressful. All you need is TIME and a bag of chocolate chips or a container of blueberries. (See Muffin practice Blog) After the EASY non-stressed review practice, have a FUN time together making muffins.
#9 Be patient.
As a parent, it hurts to see your child unhappy or stressed. But try to resist the urge to fix every problem. Instead, focus on helping your child, slowly but surely, grow into a good problem-solver — a kid who knows how to roll with life's ups and downs, put feelings into words, calm down when needed, and bounce back to try again.
Parents can't solve every problem as kids go through life. But by teaching healthy coping strategies, making sure you are not “too busy” to listen and spend some fun time together being easy-going YOURSELF with your child.….you'll prepare your kids to manage the stresses that come in the future.
INVITATION from Christy Hodder:
DIGITAL COURSE - Practicing Pro Academy
Speaking of amazing practices, let me tell you all about the digital course I built and teach for practicing parents and music teachers from the Practicing Pro Academy. It is an at-your-own-pace, six-week online course for teachers and students that will bring you even more successful practices with your players! I am also with you in person the whole time with Q&As to answer all of your questions. You can join the waitlist here.
Free PDF download
Checklist for an Amazing Music Practice
Your easy checklist to have successful home music practices from Christy, the practicing pro. Whether you are a new or seasoned practice parent this checklist will help you organize before, during, and after practices for effective and fun practices.
LIKE, FOLLOW, and SHARE on Instagram and/or Facebook to be inspired and join the positive practicing music community.