What Makes a Good ‘Stress Buddy’?
It’s one thing for kids to be aware of helpful strategies, but another altogether to be able to use them when needed. The thing with stress is that it is emotionally fed. It can really block our ability to think.
The main motivation behind this entire blog is to help parents cue their kids by sharing vocabulary and strategies. Tweens, however, are funny beasts; they can appear one way with adults and be an entirely different person with other kids. This means that even with adults ‘on the job’ cueing a child when needed, they can still manage to hide a lot. At this age, many of them are more likely to let it out with trusted friends. This is where having a same age stress buddy can really help.
I encourage the kids in my groups to pair up with someone. Ideally someone in their class, so they can help each other out. When one is feeling stressed and too emotional to be able to access their ‘training’ the other partner does the thinking for them. Usually, this just involves a reminder in the form of a simple question.
Stress Buddy Approach
“You seem really frustrated right now. Remember your self talk; what are you saying to yourself in your head?”
This does mean that both partners need to be aware of the signs of stress from the other, and to be aware of appropriate strategies. If your child does not have a friend who is in this position, it may require a bit of teaching when both are feeling good. This can be as simple as sharing typical signs of stress and a few key strategies.
“Hey when I’m stressed, I get really quiet and avoid eye contact. If you see me do that, can you check in? Usually, I need to pay attention to what I’m saying to myself in my head. I can be really negative when I’m upset. Reminding me to think about my self talk will really help”.
The goal is just to get the more emotional partner to a place where they can think a little more clearly. Once they can do that, their memory is likely to work much better.
Good Stress Buddies:
See each other regularly, including times when parents/adults do not
Can recognize each other’s most common signs of stress/anxiety
Are comfortable checking in at that point
Can suggest a simple strategy to help partner move from the feeling end of spectrum toward the thinking end of the spectrum