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Three Ways To Help Our Kids To De-stress.

If your child is between the ages of 14 and 16, here in the UK, then it is likely that they will be under considerable stress with their GCSE courses.  This article has three suggestions for what we can do as parents to help.

It is now the second half of the autumn term here in the UK and for many of our children, they will be facing their mock A-Level and GCSE examinations.
With GCSE's especially, we have seen a huge shift in expectation on our children as they moved from the previous system whereby their mark was made up from part course work and part examination to a system whereby they are assessed at the end of two years by exams.  How anyone can remember two years worth of information and regurgitate it in a two hour exam is beyond me, but when a child has dyslexia it can be a huge challenge and more so now than over the past 29 years (I was in the first year of GCSEs in 1988) the pressure has been ramped up.

So if your child is between the ages of 14 and 16, here in the UK, then it is likely that they will be under considerable stress.  So what can we as parents do to help them 'de-stress'?

1) Take a step back and understand what is going on.

This is not meant to sound patronising but in my parenting workshops I mention how to 'listen and not fix' our children's issues.  I don't mean that for everything because there are times when our kids need us to demonstrate our level of knowledge and experience in order to teach them how to move forward in certain challenges.  However in this context I am thinking about when our children are under stress and maybe this is coming out in some sort of behaviour that we are struggling with.
As loving parents we of course hate to see our children suffering and the temptation is to want to deal with the issues causing that suffering.  If we have a magic light switch I am sure that we would be clicking it hundred of times if we knew that it was going to fix our child's problems.  The reality is though that by wanting to be protective and caring, we sometimes go into 'Do Mode' when our child presents us with their problems.  We start to listen to what is happening and because we think that we have been there before we can have a tendency to jump into producing a 'fix'.  We forget that whilst we may have seen the issue before in our lifetimes, we have seen them from our own perspective and we have not experienced the issue from our child's perspective and so any solution that we have may well not help or only part help simply for that reason alone.
Our children need to find strategies for dealing with stress that work for them and we have a big part to play in helping them simply by allowing ourselves to take a step back and simply listen to our children.  

What does 'Simply Listen' mean?

It could be that your child simply wants to talk about the stress that they are experiencing.  Good for you if that is the case.  All you need to do is give them the space to do that.

It could be that your child is irritable or angry at you.  Whilst that isn't nice to experience, it is important not to focus on that behaviour (as much as possible) and look beyond it, allowing your child to get it out of their system.  Once out they may well want to talk.  
I used to always mess this up and get cross about my child getting cross.  I was focusing on the confrontation and how I hated that, rather than see the struggle that my child was going through.  I learnt this lesson the hard way and eventually got there, but whilst it is hard to experience challenging behaviour, sometimes it is something that just needs to happen before any discussion can happen between parent and child.  Remember that as a parent you will always get the challenging behaviour directed at you because your child knows that you love them.  It's a strange compliment in a way!

2) Make time to have some fun.

So you don't really need me to spell this one out do you? 

As parents we can be so busy with everything that comes with having kids and managing careers etc that we can often forget to actually schedule time out with our kids to have some fun.  When they are in their teenage years they often focus on being with their friends and request your time less (unless they need your taxi skills!) .
It is important that you have fun with your kids and hopefully schedule time every week to do that.  It is a clear demonstration of your love for them and it builds up not only their self-esteem, but strengthens your relationship with them.  It is at these times when they are most likely to open up.  If they open up then the de stress happens.  Talking is good for the soul and by having some fun with your children you are putting in place the right ingredients for a peaceful environment within which your child can let of steam.

3) Make sure that you are supported.

If you are going to support your child, you need to be strong and ready to support them.  I have spoken to many parents whereby having a child with dyslexia brings up painful experiences of when they were a child as they too were dyslexic.  In some cases, this could be a simple situation where maybe your attention is slightly compromised as you are reminded of your own challenges then (and maybe even now?).  For some families, there are parents who simply cannot deal with the 'whole dyslexia and being under pressure thing' for our child at all.  They opt to have their partner deal with it instead.  Be under no illusion your child will see that and it will affect them.  As parents we need to engage with our kids and if we are experiencing emotionally painful challenges then we need to get support so that we can give our full attention to our kids.

What is that support?

It could simply be seeing friends regularly and talking through what is happening for you.

It could be joining a support organisation with other parents that are in the 'same boat' such as my 'Parenting Dyslexia' Facebook Group, but there are many others on the internet out there.

I would recommend spending some time with a trained professional who can give you the space to think and build your own strategies for managing how you feel and how you react to supporting your child.  Someone like a life coach or a counsellor could be useful in this area to support you.
Having time out to talk and think is so valuable and I know that I have personally benefitted from going to sessions which are totally focused on how I feel.

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