Helping your child manage stress
Helping your child manage stress after karate classes
Learning and managing emotions is a particularly important aspect of karate classes for children. The skills and abilities that a good understanding of one’s emotions enables young people to acquire will be very useful to them in all spheres of their lives and in the development of their intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence. Learning healthy stress management, in particular, is very important for them, and is an integral part of our karate courses at Karaté Sportif. Indeed, karate is not only a sporting discipline, it’s also a philosophical discipline and a way of keeping body and mind healthy. Here’s what Karaté Sportif has to offer to help your little karateka understand his feelings of stress!
Stress in your child
How does stress affect your child?
In children, stress often manifests itself in different and more marked ways than in adults, not least because they don’t always understand what they’re feeling, and haven’t yet acquired the emotional experience necessary to know the best behaviors to adopt in times of stress. For example, manifestations of stress in children can look like this:
● Frequent nightmares or greater difficulty falling asleep than usual;
● A certain tendency to isolate;
● A strong need to stay close to adults;
● Great difficulty concentrating;
● Abnormal hyperactivity;
● Marked irritability or aggressiveness;
● Frequent physical discomfort;
Stress is a normal and even desirable reaction of the body to the possibility of danger, which arises so that we are ready to act or protect ourselves if necessary. It is very common, in both children and adults, for stress to be linked to elements of everyday life that are not really dangerous, causing more harm than good.
When children start to experience feelings of stress, it’s usually the kind of stress related to things that aren’t really dangerous. But for a child, something that might seem quite trivial, such as a bug on the floor, the absence of a teacher, a scratch, an argument between friends or an exam, can become a particularly intense source of stress.
How do you explain stress to your child?
At Karaté Sportif, we think it might be interesting to see the role of stress in children as that of an invisible security guard inside the self; this is the image we suggest you share with them as a way of learning to manage stress in a healthy way. We describe this security guard as essential
to our protection, but to whom it sometimes happens to be so intensely devoted to his work that he sees dangers where there are none. This security guard:
● Directs the body’s full attention towards possible danger;
● Puts the whole body on high alert, on the lookout for any possible sign of danger;
● Makes the heart beat faster to send energy to the muscles.
It’s important for children to understand that this security guard can be both positive and negative, depending on how you make him see things. They also need to realize that stress is a perfectly normal emotion, and that it’s natural to feel it… as long as you don’t let your security
guard get upset about every little unexpected thing!
Teaching your child the advantages and disadvantages of
One way to explain to children the benefits of feeling stress is to tell them about humans long, long ago, when there were still cavemen hunting mammoths for food and survival. The cavemen then developed feelings of stress that were particularly useful to them, because they kept them alert and prepared them for possible mammoth attacks. And when the mammoth did attack, stress enabled them to react to the threat by stimulating their bodies to fight or flee (attack the mammoth back or flee the mammoth).
Evolution has done things right!
However, now, in the 21st century, there are no more mammoths, and situations in which the danger to our safety or physical integrity is real are rare. Yet stress is still there, and continues to make us react to all possible dangers… which are no longer there. So we need to know what
the good and bad aspects of stress are, and how to recognize truly dangerous situations from those for which we could do without stress!
Benefits of stress
As mentioned above, the main benefits of feeling stress are the identification of risks and dangers to protect oneself, and the fact that it prepares the body to react to the threat by freezing, fleeing or attacking. This helps avoid situations that could compromise safety. To prepare the body to react, stress stimulates the 5 basic human senses (touch, hearing, sight, smell, taste), as well as proprioception – the sense of body movement and position. What’s more, stress can boost the body’s energy levels, making stressful events particularly memorable.
Disadvantages of stress
Stress, of course, also has its disadvantages. These include the fact that it always makes us see the worst in every situation, and invent all sorts of new ideas, disaster scenarios that are often illogical. Stress can also lead us to avoid certain situations, when they are new, unexpected or when we can’t control what happens in them, or even to avoid reliving situations similar to those we’ve experienced as stressful in the past. It therefore
pushes us to overreact in proportion to the seriousness of the threat. What’s more, when faced with the possibility of danger, stress makes us focus solely on inhibition, flight or attack, and prevents us from seeing that there could be other, more rational solutions.
Logical thinking, your child’s best ally against “bad” stress
One of the main problems with stress is that it makes the whole body react to dangers that are often not real, or not really threatening to its health or safety. At Karaté Sportif, we explain to children that their inner safety guardian tends always to imagine the worst imaginable catastrophes, a bit like in the movies, and that’s why it always seems to want to activate the alarm bell in their body. To help the security guard distinguish between what really deserves to sound the alarm and what doesn’t, logical thinking is the best ally you can have.
What are logical thoughts?
To avoid exhausting ourselves by seeing dangers where there are none, logical thinking is essential. To do this, we can ask ourselves three questions:
● Is my safety really at risk right now?
● Is there a more realistic explanation for this situation and what I’m feeling (in other
words, can I think about what’s happening logically, and less like in the movies)?
● Can I turn this stressful situation into a challenge?
Once you’ve identified that your safety doesn’t really seem to be in danger, thinking of the stressful situation as a challenge to be met can bring an element of positivity to what is being experienced. Roughly speaking, logical thoughts are rational thoughts that are not anxietyprovoking, ruminative, catastrophic or unrealistic. They are thoughts that we can control and use to control our stress and see the situation from a rational point of view. You can then better assess the situation and avoid stressing over nothing.
How can you help your child use logical thinking to cope with stress?
In our karate classes, we already broach the subject of logical thinking with our young karatekas, but we also strongly encourage you to talk to them about it and practice it at home. For example, you can:
● Use the 3 questions detailed above to encourage your child to think logically during stressful times;
● Encourage your child to quantify his or her stress levels and put into words what he or she is feeling, so that the situation can be viewed with a little more distance, and solutions can be found more easily;
● Rather than talking to your child about his difficulties in coping with stress, talk to him about the difficulties his little inner security guard has in calming down, in order to create a certain distance between the child and the stress, prevent him from feeling guilty about what he’s feeling, and gain more perspective on the situation to better develop solutions;
● Teach your child to use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, listening to soothing music or muscle contraction-decontraction, and support him or her in using these techniques;
● Be there for your child and congratulate him on his progress!
When their parents accompany them through stress tests and learn how to manage it, children are much more likely to succeed in controlling their emotions and reactions!
Karate for stress management, and stress management for
At Karaté Sportif, in our classes we try to teach children to manage their stress through the noble discipline of karate, just as we explain to them that better stress management can lead to better performance in their favorite sport. Indeed, thanks to karate, your little karatekas can
release tension and accumulated stress, and feel more in tune with their emotions. The practice of karate also enables their brains to release endorphins, hormones which can considerably reduce their stress levels. And on the other hand, karate requires a certain degree of selfcontrol and emotional mastery, so that movements can be executed precisely, the focus can be on the present moment, decisions can be made quickly and the ability to react quickly can be enhanced.
Stress management and karate are therefore closely linked, which is why we believe it’s important to teach children to better manage their stress, and to do so through the karate classes we offer at Karaté Sportif and the complementary learning that can be done at home.
Inspiring learning is what karate means to us, and what we want to instill in your children!