Stress and anxiety in children can lead to behavioural or physical changes that can be the first steps to experiencing mental health issues. Parents can help to alleviate these feelings by ensuring that this physical activity is part of their daily routines. Being more active has proven time and again to be a very effective method in helping children cope with, manage and overcome stress. Below are some ways parents can help their children to get more physically active, and ideas to turn physical activity into a healthy and fun habit.

Anxiety and Stress – Their Impact on Your Child

A child’s stress can cause shifts in behaviour like increased aggression and more physical signs like sleep problems, bedwetting, or decreased appetite. These actions can be confusing or frustrating for parents, as they may seem out of the blue or simply written off as a phase, however, these could be critical signs of deeper anxiety issues. 

Medical professionals recommend incorporating more physical activity into daily routines to help all children, particularly those struggling with mental health issues. According to an article by Sick Kids, physical activity goes a long way to helping maintain mental well-being and promoting healthier social interactions and better focus. But how can parents encourage their kids to put down the screens and get active?

How Parents Can Help

According to Stats Canada, only about one-third of children get their recommended amount of daily physical activity. With this statistic in mind, and when you have a child struggling due to stress, what options are available to parents?

  • Lead by example. Your children mimic your daily habits, especially now that we have been finding ourselves more at home. Show them how fun being more active can be by making time for a simple run or bike ride with your children as much as possible. 
  • Encourage your kids to try out any physical activities that interest them. Getting more exercise should be fun for your children. If they are struggling to find a sport or activity that works for them, support their search and help them find something that sticks.
  • Reduce screen time as much as possible. Kids can use technology as a great learning tool, but it can also distract them and keep them more sedentary. An excellent way to encourage physical activity and limit screen time is to plan out free time during the week and designate that period to practice a sport or do a fun workout with your children.
  • Give them the tools they need. Provide your children with toys like skateboards, sports equipment, jump ropes, bikes and more so that they have what they need to be more active. If they have the right equipment, physical activities can more easily become a regular part of their schedules.
  • Include kids in more household activities. Many children don’t like chores, but they can be great opportunities for physical activity. Make vacuuming the house or washing the car with your child fun through music and dance as you clean. 
  • Use healthy competition as a motivator. Create a friendly competition between you and your kids to help get them excited to move. Keep scores, give out prizes, and track results like steps taken together as a family.
  • Explore a new part of your neighbourhood. Take your kids out on walks around your area and explore a new park or trail together. Combining a new place with some fresh air will provide a much-needed boost of enthusiasm and rejuvenation.

Need some guidance?

York Hills provides a range of mental health services for children up to age 18 and their families. If you feel unsure how to help your children with their stress and anxiety, please contact us. We’re here to provide high-quality personal mental health care.

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