This week on my advice column I respond to a letter about a tense 7 year-old with some fun techniques focussed on how to help a tense child.
How to Help a Tense Child – the question
My son is 7 and I can feel how tense he has ben since lockdown started and school finished. He’s quite bad-tempered and edgy but also a bit withdrawn. But it’s hard to reach him, he doesn’t say much and when I ask about his feeling he just mumbles I’m okay.
How can I help him?
How to Help a Tense Child – the answer
Hello, Thanks for writing in about your son and asking me how to help a tense child.
How to Help a Tense Child is not an uncommon question these days.
It can be really hard to express feelings especially for young people who perhaps just don’t have the words. Your son is bound to feel tense these are strange and confusing times and the world as he has known it for the last 7 years has changed considerably. It has got smaller, scarier and less predictable. His response is normal – it’s what we do when we aren’t sure about what’s happening isn’t it? we tense up.
But too much tension puts an unhealthy strain on our body and our mind. So I have 5 tips for you here to help you help your child release some of that tension.
Let him know the facts of the current situation in a language he understands and let him know he can ask you any questions he wants. You don’t have it know it all ( in fact who does!) but let him know what you know that for now schools are re-opening, we must still social distance, we need to wear masks in shops and that when, and if things change you will tell him. Tell him this won’t last forever. Be clear and factual and let him know you are on top of things and he will be kept in the loop.
2. How to Help a Tense Child – Encourage him to exercise every day
Physical activity helps with the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, endorphins. Studies have found that people who exercise every day reduce their risk of anxiety and stress levels by more than 40%. So exercise works wonders for tension helping kids feel good and reducing stress.
Find over 50 activities to help your child relax and feel calmer in my new book Create Your Own Calm (Harper Collins)
3. Releasing physical tension
Baths are a great way to release tension stored up in bodies no matter what the age and a lovely long soak can really help. A great audiobook at the same time can take their mind away from their troubles as their body relax too. A great way to help a tense child.
4. Encouraging your son to open up about his worries would help him hugely now and in the future.
You can role model discussing feelings and being comfortable with them and encourage the other adults in the family to do this too. Make sure you have time and space for your child to talk to you and open up, bake together, take walks and have 1:1 time regularly so he has space and place where can open up.
Don’t be afraid of asking ‘how do you feel’ the more we discuss feelings the more comfortable your child will be with them. name it to tame it say psychologists about emotions and research has proved time and again that naming our emotions does reduce their intensity.
Helping your child find words for his feelings and a space to discuss them will reduce the tension he feels.
5. How to Help a Tense Child through their senses.
How about making some lavender playdough. The kneading releases tension in the body and the lavender aroma has been proven to aid relaxation. Get those senses engaged in chilling out as you have fun. What could be better?
I do hope these tips help on How to Help a Tense Child will help you and help your son. Remember his reaction is quite normal and that any stress-reducing techniques he learns now will stand him in good stead always. Don’t forget to relax and destress yourself too – feelings are, after all, contagious.
Further reading on How to Help a Tense Child
More advice on reducing family tension
The emotionally healthy kids podcast
Do come and have a listen and subscribe to my Emotionally Healthy Kids podcast
and do have a look at tis review of Ruby ‘s Worries for another great resource