How to Help High Stress Levels in Children of Divorce
By: Linda Jacobs
Many children experience untold stress during and after a divorce. We know stress can cause undue harm to our mental and physical health. Now we understand through much research that a child’s learning ability is also affected. When a child is stressed and living in the fight-flight part of the brain, they are incapable of learning, processing information or functioning in a reasonable manner. It becomes all about surviving in the moment.
When you can get the child to calm down, you can help the child move through the stressful moment. You can then address behavior issues or other issues that can be causing them to be anxious and stressful.
Here are some helpful tips that I use when ministering to and or working with stressful children of divorce.
Have the child put their interlaced hands on their belly. Without raising their shoulders, take in a breath through the mouth and purposefully push the hands out. When exhaling, pull the hands back in toward the stomach.
Child lies on the floor and places a small stuffed animal on their tummy. As the child breathes in, they try and push the breathing buddies toward the sky. When the child exhales, the breathing buddy lowers.
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Smelling the Flowers / Blowing Out the Candle
Using the right hand, have the child pretend the pointer finger is a flower. Smell the flower deeply. Using the left hand, pretend like the pointer finger is a candle. Now blow out the candle with the breath you used to smell the flower.
Take in a deep breath and when you release it make the sound like a balloon when you hold open the top of the balloon and let the air out. Boys especially like this one. It also brings a lot of laughs, which is a good stress releaser too.
While seated with feet on the floor, take in a deep breath through the mouth and raise both arms up to shoulder height and then turning the palms facing downwards lower the arms slowly when exhaling. Take the arms all the way down to the each side of the body. If done slowly, the child will be able to feel some tingling in their arms and hands.
Blow Out the Butterflies in Your Stomach
Take a big deep breath and make your stomach push out, now blow out all those butterflies when you release your breath through the mouth. Make sure the teeth are not clenched. It might help the child to purse their lips as they blow out through their mouth. This is one is great for a child who can feel those butterflies floating around in their tummies before a test or some other stressful event.
Keep in mind that it is the exhale that brings calmness to the brain and the body. Breathing slowly and from the diaphragm sends calming chemicals through the brain.
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Linda Jacobs developed and created the DC4K (DivorceCare for Kids) curriculum. She is a leading expert on children of divorce and challenging behavior kids. Linda is featured as an expert on the DivorceCare and the Single & Parenting DVD video series.
Kids and Divorce blog, http://blog.dc4k.org
Conscious Discipline, https://consciousdiscipline.com
ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Connection, http://www.acesconnection.com
DC4K (DivorceCare for Kids), http://ww.dc4k.org
Single & Parenting, http://www.singleandparenting.org
Photo Credit: http://jewishbusinessnews.com/2014/06/29/early-life-stress-can-leave-lasting-impacts-on-the-brain/