Reducing Stress in Children’s Daily Lives

Reducing Stress in Children’s Daily Lives

Back-to-school season — we all know it well. And even though children and parents are often thankful for the familiar routine of the school day, the transition from summer back to school can create stress. Kids are just as susceptible to this stress as parents, but sometimes it harder to see in our children.
Children display stress much differently than an adult does as their communication skills are less developed and their coping mechanisms not established. Recognizing specific behaviors can help parents support their children through the stressful time and increase the child’s confidence in future stressful situations. The following are potential reactions children may have to stress:
• An increase in oppositional behavior
• Loss of interest in things the child normally enjoys
• Changes in eating patterns
• Regression in behaviors like clinginess or frequent crying
• An increase or decrease in energy levels not due to an illness
It is normal for children to go through phases where life may seem more difficult, providing some simple structure and guidance can assist the child in moving through the phase. Teaching your child stress management techniques can build self-esteem.
Communicate. Try to generate an open environment and create opportunities for your kids to express themselves. Parents can facilitate these openings by asking straightforward, non-threating questions about school, friends, classmates, and teachers. It can even be as simple as, “How are you feeling?”
Eat Healthy. We’re all on the run and once school starts, it is harder to keep track of everything our kids are eating. But a healthy body is one that is better equipped to withstand stress.
Encourage Physical Activity. They don’t have to be flying down the slopes or getting in aggressive activity, but regular exercise can help with health and, especially, with mental health. A daily walk or bike ride can help them sort out their thoughts- and feel better about themselves.
Establishing a Bedtime Routine. Work on getting your child in the routine of going to bed at ‘school time’ and waking up accordingly. The Mayo Clinic states that school-aged children need 10-11 hours of sleep, in comparison to adults who need 7-9 hours. A sleep deprived child will be a child who has less energy for school and activities and will need time to make-up for their sleep deprivation.
Listen. Learning to listen to your child and their needs is a skill developed throughout parenthood and is unique to each child. As a parent it is easy to give advice and not hear what your child may be saying about their perspective on what is happening in their daily life. Taking moments to hear your child’s perspective is a great way to understand what the sources of the stress may be and how you as a parent can best support and show your love for your child.
Matia Wilson

Staff Highlight: Matia Wilson

Matia is a Therapist for the Van Vleck Group Home and Crisis Shelter in Jackson, Wyoming. She was born in Shrewsbury, VT and attended the University of Vermont, majoring in both Psychology and Anthropology. The day after college graduation, Matia moved to Jackson to guide horseback rides in Grand Teton National Park.

In 2015, Matia went back to graduate school at the University of Wyoming and received her Master’s in Social Work. During her search for an ideal job, Matia was drawn to work at the Van Vleck House because of TYFS’s strengths based approach and community involved atmosphere. She enjoys helping kids and their families create meaningful connections and rebuild relationships with themselves and those around them. A sincere thank you to Matia for all she does at TYFS!

Registration is open for 22nd Annual TYFS Golf Tournament

Register now to enjoy some early season golf and raise funds to support children and families in our community. Join us on June 25th at Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club for the 22nd annual Teton Youth and Family Services Golf Tournament. An entry cost of $300 (or $1,000 for a foursome) gets you lunch, golf cart rental, green fees, post-golf reception, and an event gift bag.

Register Now

Social and Emotional Skill Building

With the start of the school year upon on us many parents begin to shift focus towards best supporting their child’s academic achievement. Social and emotional skills play a fundamental role in academic outcomes, as well as promoting positive behaviors and  mental health. The following are some tips for parents to engage in this learning process. The good news is that our schools are already heavily invested in social and emotional learning. The best news? Lifelong outcomes to promote educational success while reducing problems associated with substance use, criminal activity, and mental health.
By helping kids manage their emotions we are preparing them to learn. We can help by acknowledging their emotions and then finding ways to increase their emotional literacy and feelings of self-control by having them name their emotions. Then we can model empathy by putting ourselves in their shoes, validating their feelings, and not jumping in to rescue them. As much as we want to protect our kids don’t we really want to send the message that they are able to solve their own problems? That we trust them and they can trust themselves.
By acting as consultants, we can unpack our own conflicts by taking responsibility for our emotions, teaching the valuable lesson that only one person is responsible for how we feel and how we handle those feelings. By sharing our own calming strategies (deep breathing, counting, taking a break to cool off before returning to the problem, etc.) we are not only modeling the process, but that we are actively identifying our own patterns so that we can grow too.
Whether we are trying to instill self-regulation, improve attention and focus, or cultivate problem solving strategies, the basis of social and emotional development is in trusting relationships. The Hirschfield Center for Children can help families foster relationships built from a place of worthiness – from there the possibilities are endless.

WHY THE JACKSON HOLE LEADERSHIP PROGRAM IS MEANINGFUL ….but don’t take our word for it

As we finish our last month of the Leadership Jackson Hole Program we thought we would share how meaningful this has been for youth in our community. Thank you to the parents of the students who have participated for entrusting us with your child and thank you to the donors who have helped provide funding to keep this program affordable!

“Jackson Leadership Camp has offered our son the ability to grow as an individual and to explore the amazing place we get to call home. Isaac looks forward to camp each year as one of his summer highlights and returns energized with a stronger sense of self worth and an ability to overcome challenge. The leaders have always taken the time to recognize and build on the attendees strengths and individual abilities. I   appreciate the way the leaders focus on each child as a truly unique individual and that they have the knowledge and training to bring out the best in our son.” 
—JHLP camper’s parent 
“Leadership camp for me has been the best experience in my whole life! The counselors are so supportive and never put pressure on us kids if we don’t want to do something. For example, the first year I did the camp we went to the Journey’s School to do the ropes course and team building activities. When it was my turn to do the ropes course I was totally and completely petrified – but they helped me through it!”  
-Camper Issac

How Do We Shift into Summer?

Much the same as for families, shifting from the school year to summer time brings changes in activities, work schedules and  supervision requirements at Teton Youth and Family Services. Children have more free time that gets filled with varied commitments for sports, jobs, camps, and activities.
Our Leadership Program, for any middle school students, is in full swing starting on June 18th. Youth spend a week doing outdoor activities such as canoeing, kayaking, ropes course and/or backpacking all of which involve getting to know, trust and work with a varied peer group.
The Van Vleck House Group Home and Crisis Shelter have a  productive and fun schedule that fills each day. Some students have jobs or other activities in the community. All of which keeps the staff and students extra busy.
While School continues until mid-July at Red Top and is followed by a 24-day wilderness trip, the daily activities shift from skiing and broomball to jogging and soccer with outdoor duties shifting from shoveling to gardening.
Summer at Red Top also brings the opportunity to take seven young men who are not residents at RTM, but have exhibited dysfunctional behaviors at school or in the home, on a 21-day backpacking trip. This incredibly valuable experience is made possible by a generous grant from the Geraldine W. and Robert J. Dellenback Foundation.
The activities and daily schedule at TYFS change with the end of the school year, but what we are really doing stays the same throughout the year. That is, helping young people and families find their way to fulfilling and constructive lives by helping them improve their relationships with peers and within the family and with our community.

Learning to Take Control

People typically have one of two perspectives on intelligence and innate ability: they either believe it’s fixed and can’t be changed and that exerting effort or making mistakes are signs of stupidity, or they believe it can be improved through hard work and that effort and mistakes will increase their abilities. The former is called a fixed mindset and the latter, a growth mindset. Science has shown that intelligence actually can grow through effort, problem solving, and risk taking. Teaching the growth mindset has been shown to increase student achievement, school engagement, and motivation.

At Red Top Meadows, students typically arrive to the program well below grade level and with countless failures in the classroom.

Over the past two years, the school has taught about the brain and the growth mindset. Students made models of neurons. They demonstrated how intelligence grows by strengthening neural pathways through effort. In writing about a time when they had to work hard, try different strategies, and get help from others to learn something new, they strengthened the understanding of the growth mindset. Students also compared their muscles to their brains to explain how they can grow their intelligence and made brain hats to take on the role of the brain to learn how the different lobes function.

The frontal lobe of the brain, which is responsible for some executive function abilities (planning, problem solving, emotional and physical regulation, and organization), can be strengthened through mindfulness meditation activities. During science class every day, the students do mindfulness activities. The final lesson in the growth mindset and neuroscience unit will have them determine how they can use meditation to strengthen the frontal lobe and take charge of the rest of their body, their thinking, and their behavior.