Kids with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDDs) are highly susceptible to the negative effects of stress, which include symptoms and issues like chronic headaches or other pain, digestive upset, mood swings, behavioral problems, difficulty sleeping, and more. A proactive approach to stress management in children with IDDs is particularly important because they tend to lead more stressful lives, have fewer positive outlets for coping, and lack well-honed stress management skills.
If you’re the parent or caregiver of a kid with an intellectual or developmental disability, here are some ways you can promote healthy, natural stress management in children with IDDs.
Managing Stress in Kids with IDDs
- Build stress-management activities and techniques into your child’s daily routine. Routine itself is often a powerful way to prevent stress, and having these forms of relief scheduled helps ensure they don’t get overlooked during busy times.
- Make sure your son or daughter gets physical activity every day. Of course, your child’s physical abilities may limit the options in this regard, but do what you can to promote a significant but safe amount of exercise. If possible, team sports can be highly beneficial to kids with IDDs; not only does the physical and mental stimulation help with stress, so too does the socialization. Also, aquatics can be a great activity for many kids with IDDs.
- Take your child outside every day. Even just a few minutes in the sun or surrounded by nature can be mellowing and a real mood-booster!
- Teach your child age- and ability-appropriate relaxation techniques. Some possibilities include deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation (tensing and relaxing muscles down the body).
- Listen to calming music with your child. On the other hand, energetic music and dancing can also be a potent stress-buster!
- Aromatherapy can be an excellent way to relax for kids who don’t struggle with sensory issues related to smell. Lavender, vanilla, cinnamon, jasmine, pine, and sandalwood are a few scents known for their soothing properties.
- Give your child a back rub or a gentle massage.
- Work to remedy sleep problems in a child with an intellectual or developmental disability if and when they occur. Regularly getting a restful night’s sleep is so important to anyone’s ability to relieve stress.
- Take good care of yourself! Managing your stress and being mindful about preventing caregiver burnout aren’t just important to your own well-being, they also help keep you from losing focus or patience, experiencing a shorter temper or mood swings, and otherwise becoming a source of additional stress for your child!