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How to spot stress in kids and what you can do to help them

How to spot stress in kids and what you can do to help them

LEGO® Friends’ Aliya loves learning, and uses her bedroom as a creative space where she can unwind and relax. She’s also very good at noticing how her friends are feeling and asking them if they want to talk.

The first step to helping children cope with stress can be to teach them what it is and how it makes them feel. Once they can name it, they can understand how they can make themselves feel better.

Meet Ruth and Philip, who are passionate about helping parents build conversations with their kids around their mental health and wellbeing. In the video, they explain their top tips for looking for opportunities to open up the dialog in a safe and comforting way, for everyone!

Name it to tame it

Children are still learning when it comes to emotions. Strong feelings like happy, sad and angry are easier for them to grasp, but they may struggle to recognize others like boredom, frustration, worry, tiredness and excitement.

You can help by talking about all emotions and emphasizing that it’s okay to feel any of these things. Check in with your child and ask them how they are feeling. If they appear sad, offer them recognition by saying something like, “I notice you seem to be sad. Am I right?”

If they tell you they are feeling a certain way, you can work together to try and find out why, and what might help. After a busy day at school, kids who seem grumpy might just be hungry or thirsty. Offer them a drink and a snack while you try to talk things through.

Ruth Simmonds, project manager for schools at the Mental Health Foundation, explains: “It can be difficult to build that conversation with children around their mental health and wellbeing. It’s really about taking the time, being patient. Children may struggle to open up straight away, but if you just keep opening up that conversation, slowly, they’ll start to understand that it’s something that you really want to listen to.”

Playtime can open doors

Spending time one-on-one with your child doing something they enjoy can help them to relax and open up to you. Rather than sitting still and firing questions at them, take some time doing something fun and start a free-flowing conversation that gives them the opportunity to talk to you about any worries or emotions they are experiencing.

According to Ruth: “It’s looking for opportunities where you can have that conversation within the safety and the comfort of your own relationship with your child.” This could be playing with LEGO bricks, dancing to a favorite song, baking or going for a walk together. If your child is facing a particular problem, such as having trouble with school friends, you could even use role play to work it through.

The Aliya’s Room set is just one of many new LEGO Friends sets that are designed to encourage kids to role-play their own friendship stories.

Look for opportunities where you can have a conversation within the safety and the comfort of your own relationship with your child, this could be while playing with LEGO® bricks.

Relieve pressure

If children are struggling at school or feeling anxious about tests, you can help them by not showing them you are worried too. As well as praising good results, take an interest in homework they have found difficult. Talk through their mistakes and discuss what they think went wrong and how you can help them improve next time.

Philip Beswick is a young leader with the Mental Health Foundation. He says: “I think the number one thing is that children are scared of disappointing their parents, so it’s much easier if a parent initiates that contact. ‘I can see maybe you’re not doing so well – let me help you’, rather than, ‘Do better.’”

Mindfulness

Focusing the mind on the present and being aware of physical sensations can be a great way to learn to accept and let go of thoughts and feelings that are causing stress.

It’s not something that works for everyone, and even some adults can find the idea daunting, but you can introduce even young children to mindfulness through simple games and exercises that will occupy their mind. This could be calm and concentrated coloring, playful stretching and deep breathing, or noticing and naming sights and sounds around them.

Ruth advises: “I think mindfulness can be a great tool, but it’s also not something for everyone. It’s finding what works best for you, but also for your child. Explore, try different things, look for opportunities such as play, but also something that they know how to do.”

Here are some mindfulness techniques based around using LEGO bricks that can help your child focus and distract them from stress:

Two people talk while sat at a table of LEGO bricks
It’s not something that works for everyone, and even some adults can find the idea daunting, but you can introduce even young children to mindfulness through simple games and exercises that will occupy their mind. 

  • Sorting bricks into different colors

  • Making patterns out of LEGO® DOTS

  • Building a fantasy creature out of LEGO® bricks

  • Building a tower together that is taller than your child

Just be there

Just like Aliya does with her fellow LEGO Friends, the best thing you can do to help your child is to let them know that they can always talk to you about anything. Speak to them openly about your own feelings and show them we all feel different emotions – and they are equally valid.

Ruth reminds us: “An important part of this is to be patient with yourself and to understand you’re doing the best you possibly can, just by being there.”

New Friends, New Adventures

Discover how our 8 new characters, including Aliya, Leo and Autumn, are expanding the world of LEGO® Friends.