Our stressed out kids

This morning I took my kids to Starbucks for breakfast because our kitchen sink is totally clogged, sigh.

My third grader noticed the NYT front page with this headline:

Record Level of Stress Found in College Freshmen.

“Why are they all so stressed out?” he wanted to know.

The article does a great job of explaining why.

What is missing is the piece of what you can do to foster resilience in your children.  It may be little surprise that my first answers is . .  .build a happy, healthy marriage.  In other words, model great relationships with a passion for life to your kids.

After that, here are a few other tips.

  • Demand that your children pursue passions instead of trying to impress college admissions officers. Seriously, even in high school, it’s more helpful to talk with your child about finding things that they love to do and doing them than about building a well-rounded application.  This way, when your child gets into an appropriate-for-them school, they’ll have things they love doing to help them stay solidly on their feet.
  • Model a healthy lifestyle and help your child build one too. Find fun ways to make exercise part of your routine.  Replace screen-time with face-to-face time.  Cook healthy food together.  Building routines like these will cultivate a life-rhythm that is resilient in the face of stress.
  • Share stressful news and finances on an as-needed and as-appropriate basis. Your twelve year old probably does not need to know that it was a struggle to pay the mortgage this month.  Sharing these details is likely to cultivate a general tendency to feel stress and anxiety, when it’s more appropriate to be helping her learn to take tests at school without panicking.  At the same time, a child heading to college does need to have you talk through a rock-solid financial plan for how they will handle their portion of any loans.   Likewise, direct information about how you will be helping and not-helping to finance their education is critical.
  • Eat dinners together. Having regular, real family time is one of the best ways to make sure your kids feel supported.  Then hopefully, they’ll call you when college is just feeling like too much, instead of swimming alone in a pool of stress.