Blog post 

Helping Children Learn Healthy Ways to Manage Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety isn’t just an issue adults deal with. It’s something children and youth can encounter as well.

But Family and Community Support Services’ (FCSS) Youth Services is aiming to teach youth how to manage these feelings of stress and anxiety.

Kristi Starling, Youth Services supervisor with FCSS in Spruce Grove, and Megan Lovett, community development co-ordinator for youth, are up for the challenge.

The duo can be found at the Spruce Grove Log Cabin with Brendan Kronewitt, who oversees the Youth Mentorship Program.

“We’re hearing from administrators and teachers that stress and anxiety is coming up more and more, and earlier in younger ages than ever before,” explained Starling.

Youth Services empowers youth in the community to make health decisions and provides them with the resources to do so. Staff run several programs in the community and through local schools.

One of the school-based programs teaches children about coping with stress and anxiety.

Lovett has received training for stress in youth and is taking what she’s learned to Grade 6 and 7 classrooms in Spruce Grove. She is teaching the students practices they can use to cope with stress.

Through the program, the students are taught what stress is and how it makes their bodies feel. They also learn what healthy, normal stress is, and when it can become too much.

“Once we’re able to acknowledge how we feel when we’re stressed, what it looks like, and what causes us stress, then we can start to work on strategies to alleviate the stress,” Lovett said.

Starling and Lovett pointed out many people may not think children and youth have anything to be stressed or anxious about. But often things that are causing stress on parents can also be felt by their children.

“Family issues in our social climate is hitting them hard,” said Lovett. “Parents are dealing with losing their jobs or struggling with money, and it trickles down to the youth.”

Other stresses include school, friendship problems and socio-economic issues.

She discusses with the youth what positive and negative coping mechanisms for these issues look like.

Lovett teaches children about mindfulness — a therapeutic technique practiced by focusing on the present moment and calmly reflecting on feelings, thoughts and sensations in one’s own body. Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis can greatly assist in coping with stress.

“Some people find deep breathing is something that works for them so that they can refocus themselves and just be better prepared to write that test or play in that sports game,” Lovett explained. “They do deep breathing when they start to feel they may have a panic attack or feel really high anxiety.”

For others, writing in a journal about their feelings helps.

“It’s finding the technique that works for you, because the same thing isn’t going to work for everyone,” Lovett said.

The Youth Services team hopes students will take what they’ve learned and carry it with them for years to come.

Learn more about positive ways of coping with stress and anxiety by visiting www.stopbreathethink.com. There are also mindfulness apps available for smartphones.

The Lions Log Cabins’ Youth Mentorship Program is running throughout the summer. Starting July 4, it is open Tuesday to Friday 2-8 p.m. and Saturday 1-8 p.m. For more information on Youth Mentorship Program events, call Spruce Grove FCSS at 780-962-7618.