Stress is a common experience that affects people of all ages, including kids. Unfortunately, many adults overlook the need for stress relief in kids, assuming that they are too young to experience stress or that they will simply grow out of it. However, the truth is that stress can have a significant impact on a child’s physical, emotional, and social well-being if not addressed early on. Martial arts training can provide a safe, supportive, and fun environment for kids to manage stress and build resilience, but it works best when used as part of a cohesive team effort.
Identifying Stress in Kids
It’s essential to know what to look for to help your child manage stress. Stress in kids can manifest in various ways, and some common signs of stress in kids include changes in eating habits, sleep disturbances, physical symptoms, mood changes, and behavioral changes. As a parent, it’s essential to be aware of your child’s baseline behavior and recognize any deviations from it, no matter how subtle.
Tips for Parents
As a parent, there are many things you can do to help your child manage stress. Here are some tips:
- Creating a Supportive Environment: Kids who feel supported and loved at home are better equipped to handle stress. Spend quality time with your child and listen to them when they talk about their worries. Be empathetic and supportive of your child’s emotions. You don’t need to solve every problem for them, and trying to do so can often make things worse. Offering your teen options can be more helpful. For example, “Do you want me to listen so you can vent, do you want my advice, or do you need me to step in to help?”
- Encouraging Physical Activity: Regular exercise can help reduce stress in kids. Encourage your child to participate in activities they enjoy, such as sports or martial arts. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids participate in physical activity for at least one hour per day. Physical activity helps the body produce more of the feel-good neurotransmitters, such as endorphins, that can help reduce the effects of stress hormones such as cortisol.
- Establishing Healthy Sleep Habits: Make sure your child gets enough sleep each night. Create a bedtime routine and limit screen time before bed. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that school-aged children get 9-11 hours of sleep per night. Tweens and teens oft shift their sleep patterns as they near high school age. They suddenly require even more sleep, and their circadian rhythm also tends to shift, causing them to stay up later at night and wake later in the morning.
- Teaching Relaxation Techniques: Deep breathing, visualization, and meditation can help reduce stress in kids. Practice these techniques with your child, and incorporate them into your child’s daily routine. While it may feel silly at first, taking the time to role-play both the stressful situations that your child might experience and the relaxation techniques they can employ this practice can help your tween or teen be more successful when needed.
- Helping Your Child Problem-Solve: Encourage your child to brainstorm solutions to their problems. Teach them how to break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable ones. This type of goal-setting works best when worked backward. Start with the biggest, most overwhelming aspects, then work backward to identify the causes, then back again to find steps to eliminate the causes, then backward again… each time breaking the challenge into smaller steps until you find a step that can easily and immediately be taken.
The Role of Martial Arts in Managing Stress
Martial arts can be an effective way to help kids manage stress. The physical, intellectual, emotional, and social aspects of a martial arts training program such as SKILLZ can support kids and parents alike. Here are some ways that martial arts can help:
- Physical Activity: Martial arts classes provide a fun and engaging way for kids to get regular exercise, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. Martial arts training provides opportunities to develop strength, coordination, and flexibility while having fun. Because the Extreme SKILLZ program focuses on developmentally appropriate activities, kids can feel challenged yet not overwhelmed.
- Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Many martial arts classes include mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, which can help kids learn how to manage stress in a healthy way. Practicing these techniques can help reduce anxiety, improve focus, and help kids feel calm. The classes at SKILLZ of Patchogue also include skill-based training, which helps kids apply what they learn in classes in abstract ways to other aspects of life. For example, 10 to 14-year-olds in the Extreme SKILLZ program learn about self-defense by practicing the idea of “Reaction.” This skill helps them move more quickly when using physical techniques but also allows them to develop appropriate responses to stress; they learn how to react in a way that addresses and eliminates challenges.
- Problem-Solving Skills: Martial arts training can help children develop problem-solving skills, which can help them navigate stressful situations more effectively. The ability to think creatively and come up with solutions is an essential skill that can help kids overcome obstacles and reduce anxiety. Tweens and teens in the Extreme SKILLZ program work on a skill called Vision, which helps them create a mental image of who they want to be, and provides the mindset tools that help them align each decision they make with that vision of themselves.
- Confidence and Self-Esteem: Mastering new skills in martial arts can boost a child’s confidence and self-esteem, making them better equipped to handle stress. The ability to set and achieve goals in martial arts training can provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, which can help reduce anxiety. We like to remind the kids in our martial arts classes that “Competence breeds confidence.” As the teens gain competence in their martial arts, the confidence that they can handle hard things increases in all other areas of their lives.
- Social Support: Martial arts classes provide a supportive and positive social environment, which can help reduce stress and provide a sense of belonging. Kids can connect with others who share their interests, reducing feelings of isolation and stress. In a martial arts class, children are encouraged to work together and support each other, which can help build strong bonds and friendships. Teens often view their social circle at school as if it were the entire world. We hear them saying things like, “But mom, EVERYONE is doing it!” By providing a secondary social circle, and one that is highly positive and supportive, tweens and teens can widen their perspective of what is available to them in the world. This makes it easier for them to deal with things like social bullying because the opinions of the bullies will matter less.
Positive Environment and Peer Mentorship in Martial Arts
The environment in a martial arts school can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to manage stress. SKILLZ of Patchogue, for example, uses cognitive neuroscience and developmental psychology principles to create a positive environment for kids to learn and grow. Instructors are trained in child development and principles of motivation, making them an integral part of a child’s team for success.
Peer mentorship is also an essential aspect of martial arts training. In a martial arts class, older and more experienced students often serve as mentors and role models for younger or less experienced students. This provides an opportunity for kids to learn from their peers and develop valuable social skills such as empathy, respect, and leadership.
Examples of Stressful Situations and How Martial Arts Can Help
Let’s take a look at some examples of stressful situations that kids may face and how martial arts can help:
- School Stress:
Many kids may feel overwhelmed by the pressure to perform academically and the fear of failure. The constant demands of school work, extracurricular activities, and social life can leave kids feeling exhausted and anxious. Martial arts training can help kids manage school-related stress by providing physical activity, mindfulness techniques, and a sense of accomplishment and confidence. Through regular practice, kids can learn how to focus their minds, control their emotions, and develop mental toughness, which can help them succeed both inside and outside the classroom. Additionally, the supportive environment and peer mentorship in a martial arts school can help kids build self-esteem and social skills, which can also help reduce school-related stress. By incorporating martial arts training into their routine, kids can develop healthy coping strategies to manage stress, leading to improved academic performance and overall well-being.
Bullying is a significant source of stress for many tweens and teens. It can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem and can have long-lasting effects on a child’s mental health. Martial arts training can be an effective tool for managing the stress that comes with being bullied. Through martial arts training, kids can learn self-defense techniques, which can help them feel more confident and empowered in the face of bullying. Martial arts also emphasize respect and discipline, which can help kids develop a sense of self-respect and assertiveness, making them less vulnerable to bullying. Additionally, martial arts training can help kids develop a strong social network, providing them with a supportive community of peers and mentors who can offer guidance and encouragement. By learning how to manage stress and build resilience through martial arts training, kids can develop healthy coping strategies to manage the stress that comes with being bullied, leading to improved mental health and well-being.
Anxiety is a common issue for tweens and teens, and it can be debilitating if left untreated. Martial arts training can be an effective way to help reduce anxiety in kids. Through regular practice, kids can develop mindfulness techniques and learn how to control their breathing and heart rate, which can help reduce feelings of anxiety. Additionally, martial arts training can help kids build confidence and self-esteem, which can help reduce anxiety by providing a sense of control and empowerment. Martial arts also emphasize discipline and structure, which can be particularly helpful for kids who struggle with anxiety. By providing a structured environment for physical activity and mindfulness, martial arts training can help kids manage anxiety symptoms and develop healthy coping strategies to manage stress. The supportive community and peer mentorship in a martial arts school can also help kids build social skills and relationships, which can provide a valuable support network for managing anxiety. Overall, martial arts training can be an effective tool for reducing anxiety and helping kids develop resilience and coping skills.
- Family Stress:
Family stress can be particularly challenging to manage because it often involves multiple family members. Martial arts training can be an effective way to help reduce family stress by providing a healthy outlet for physical activity and mindfulness techniques. Through martial arts training, kids can learn how to manage their emotions and communicate more effectively, which can help reduce family conflicts. Additionally, martial arts training can help kids build self-esteem and confidence, which can improve their relationships with family members by providing a sense of control and empowerment. Martial arts also emphasize respect and discipline, which can help kids develop a stronger sense of responsibility and accountability in their family relationships. The supportive community and peer mentorship in a martial arts school can also provide a valuable source of support and encouragement for kids and their families. Instructors and peer mentors can also serve as additional support members by providing a safe outlet for communication if the teen is uncomfortable discussing the causes of family stress more directly with members of the family. By incorporating martial arts training into their routine, kids can develop healthy coping strategies to manage family stress, leading to improved relationships and overall well-being for the entire family.
Stress is a common experience for kids, but it’s essential to address it early on to prevent long-term physical, emotional, and social consequences. As a parent, there are many things you can do to help your child manage stress, including creating a supportive environment, encouraging physical activity, and teaching relaxation techniques. Martial arts training, such as the programs offered by SKILLZ of Patchogue, can also be an effective way to help kids manage stress and build resilience. Instructors who are trained in child development and principles of motivation can provide personalized support to help kids achieve their goals and develop healthy coping strategies. By working together, parents, instructors, and kids can create a supportive and positive environment that promotes physical, intellectual, emotional, and social growth.
If you’re ready to help your child overcome their challenges and reach their full potential, sign up for a free 1-on-1 placement evaluation with an Extreme SKILLZ instructor today. Our program is specifically designed to meet the unique needs and abilities of children between the ages of 10 and 14, helping them develop the skills they need to succeed in all areas of life.
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SKILLZ OF PATCHOGUE
380 East Main St
Patchogue, NY 11772
Author: Michael A Evans
Michael is a 6th-degree black sash under his teacher, Moises Arocho, and has been training in martial arts since 1985. Michael has a degree in Massage Therapy from NY College of Health Professions. He is the owner of 4GK Martial Arts in Patchogue, NY, and Skillz of Patchogue, a childhood development facility using martial arts and other movement modalities as the vehicle for kids’ growth and success. Michael is also a Science Blogger with Onward Science and a collaborator on the Little Laurie and Ninja Née book series.