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Helping Kids Master Their Emotions

by Robin Schafer

Stress is a word all too familiar to children in schools these days. Every year, students are required to take standardized tests, which takes so much preparation time, many parents are finding the need to enroll their children in extra tutorial programs after school just to keep up in the classroom. Add that to massive amounts of homework combined with too many extracurricular activities and kids are bound to feel the pressure.

This is leading to an increase in problems with anxiety including attention deficit disorder. There is such a high rate of teen depression that there aren't enough psychologists to handle the caseloads. Meanwhile, teachers are finding students are much more fidgety and unable to sit still in class. There isn't enough exercise outside the classroom because there's simply not enough time.

There are five techniques which help reduce anxiety, all of which I've seen work firsthand:

-- MEDITATION: slowing down and finding calm and peace for moments at a time makes a big difference.

-- DEEP BREATHING: even if it's for a short, quick, deep breath, it relaxes the body and mind almost immediately.

-- VISUALIZATION: this is more of a long-term stress reducer. Let's say your son plays goalie in soccer. This is a tough position, which can create a lot of anxiety for a kid because if a ball slips by, a child may put the entire outcome of the game on his shoulders. But, taking about five minutes a day twice a day to just close his eyes and visualize himself doing well could make all the difference. Over a period of time, not only may he actually do much better, but he'll be much less stressed about it when the other team scores.

-- WRITING IN A JOURNAL: this helps because words on the page become a visual reminder of progress.

-- EXERCISE: this allows children to work out their stress and frustration physically.

In the past, people always put so much credence on academic intelligence, when in fact it's been proven time and again that emotional intelligence is truly the key to a happier and optimistic individual. Learning how to handle stress and pressure through positive outlets at an early age creates fewer problems in college and fewer cases of teen depression.

With such a strong focus on academics, children are being tested more and at earlier ages. Such an emphasis has been placed on these tests, in fact, that towns receive funding based on how well their schools perform. If the schools don't do well, it's publicized, it hurts property values and fewer people will move there. This, in turn, is creating even more pressure on our kids to perform.

As the mother of three children between the ages of 11 and 21, I've seen the stress firsthand and I know all about the pressures that come with adolescence. I wanted youngsters to have a place to turn, so my husband, Randy and I launched a web-based subscription program that teaches children between the ages of 8-13 strategies for coping with that stress while gaining self-confidence. Masterful Kids is a secure, members-only website that helps youngsters understand, communicate and control their emotions with the help of their peers and parents, in a positive manner.

Through the site, children are offered programs based on the following:

-- Achieving goals
-- Being Grateful
-- Being Healthy through Exercise
-- Being Happy
-- Being Positive
-- Feeling Special
-- Handling Difficult People
-- Learning from Mistakes
-- Stress Management Techniques
-- Understanding Feelings

The programs contain five sub-sections including an introduction, video, daily journal, kids, opinion page, parents forum, bibliography section and a blog. Each culminates with a monthly conclusion where kids can reflect upon their progress.

About the Author:
Robin Schafer earned a degree of psychology and sociology from the University of Pennsylvania. She received a certification in Emotional Intelligence from 6 Seconds in California. She also brings firsthand experience to the table having raised children of her own from the elementary school age to the college level. The Schafers live in East Brunswick, New Jersey with their three children, ages 21, 17 and 11. Children as far away as Singapore use the program. For more information visit www.masterfulkids.com.



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