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Now that we are well into 2016, this is a good time to check in with our children and gauge their stress levels. Stress is a normal part of life, but it is important to help our children manage their stress. Now is a great time for the whole family to evaluate stress levels and what may be causing stress in our lives. Here are some questions you can ask your children and yourself in order to help identify and manage their stress levels:

How did the first half of the school year go?
Look back at the first half of the school year and evaluate how things are going. Did your children seem stressed? Look at their schedule including extra-curricular activities and think about the time spent on after school activities. Was it too much? If your child had a stressful first half of the school year, it is important to identify the reason and help facilitate changes.

Do your children have time for free play?
It is important for children to have unstructured time where they can play. Free play time is developmentally important for children of all ages. This will help them manage the normal stressors of life. It is important to find a healthy balance of structured activity and opportunities for free play. Each child is a little different, so parents need to look at each child’s unique needs.

How do I know if my child is stressed?
All children experience stress—it is a normal part of life. But there are some signs that parents can look for that will indicate your child is experiencing an unhealthy level of stress and may need your help and guidance to identify the stressor and help create coping strategies to manage it. Changes in a child’s overall behavior or demeanor can be a sign of stress. Changes in sleep patterns and eating patterns can also be a sign of stress. If you see these behavior changes in your child, it is important to talk to them about it.

How do I talk to my children about stress?
Work on having an open dialog with your child. If you think your child is feeling stressed or anxious, identify that and tell them that you notice something is bothering them. Take the time to listen and not judge. Help your child think about ways to cope with that stressor and facilitate some strategies that they can use in this situation and in future stressful situations.

How does my stress impact my children?
It is important that parents model appropriate ways of handling stress. Children are looking to their parents to learn these skills. Parents can model a balance of structured and unstructured time by not over scheduling themselves. Parents can also model the importance for play and appropriate ways of relieving normal stress such as exercise and hobbies.

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