Three Simple Solutions to Help Reduce Childhood Stress and Boost Your Child’s Academic Potential

I’m going to share some quick and easy examples of ways that you can help lower your child’s stress levels and boost your child’s academic potential.

Tip #1: Incorporate baroque music into your daily routines

Music is a bridge between our right and left hemispheres.  Music allows our bodies to relax and allows our minds to open to their fullest potential.  This, in turn, brings forth the possibility for our memories to work at a heightened state.

Jannalea Hoffman, a music therapist from the University of Kansas, found that music can help students do better on tests.  She created a Baroque piece of music that followed slow sound patterns and played it as background music for a group of nursing students taking a test; the control group did not hear the music.  Hoffman found that those listening to the music had lower heart rates and higher test scores than the control group.

In my book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, I write about how Baroque music, in particular, helps.  Because Baroque music moves at 60 beats per minute, the Largo movement is syncopated with your heartbeat.  The music calms your mind, relaxes your brain, and allows you to use the brain like an orchestra.

Ideas to help you incorporate music into your family life:

  • Start early.  If you have a baby, play Baroque music during baths, meals, and before naps.
  • Play Baroque music while your child is doing homework.
  • If your older children protest the idea of Baroque classical music, begin gently by playing it while cooking dinner or cleaning the house.  Keep it on in the background at home as much as possible.

Tip #2: Practice progressive relaxation techniques, meditation, and breathing techniques as a family

Something as simple as monitoring and paying attention to your breathing, and relaxing into your breath, can help lower stress levels.  By reducing your stress levels and that of your children, you can bring daily health benefits to the whole family.  Progressive relaxation techniques, such as the ones I use in my meditation audio downloads, can lower blood pressure, improve circulation, and pump more blood to the prefrontal cortex, which allows us to process our thoughts better.

We get the best of who we are when we put ourselves in what is known as this relaxed alpha state because instead of being blocked by anxiety and stress, we have access to our natural state, which is peaceful, and our natural self, which is our potential.  Stress hormones, such as cortisol, can change the structure and architecture of our brains.  Reducing stress can lower your blood pressure, increase circulation, and process information better.  This allows us to use our brains laterally.  By relaxing the body, you can reduce your cortisol load and keep a healthy brain structure, including impulse control.

Have each family member, together or individually, incorporate my stress reduction exercise at least once daily.

Ideas to help you get started with progressive relaxation techniques:

  • Practice this exercise in a quiet room with no distractions.
  • Schedule the time for this exercise into your day as you would any other commitment.  The start of the day and as you are ending your day are the best times.
  • Set a timer so you are not distracted by wondering if your 20 minutes are up.
  • Find a room with plenty of space to lie down and not feel cramped by nearby objects.
  • What you resist persists: therefore, when you have distracting thoughts, invite them into your meditation.  Don’t fight them.

Tip #3: Make finding time for free play a priority

In our busy world, over-scheduling and over-stimulating our children may hinder their intelligence rather than help them.  Many of the world’s most significant discoveries occurred during relaxed states.  Albert Einstein came up with the theory of relativity when daydreaming while doing repetitive work at a patent office.  James Watson claims his sudden insight during a good night’s sleep led to the discovery of the double helix, our DNA.  Isaac Newton is said to have developed his theory of gravity after seeing an apple fall from a tree while lounging in his mother’s garden.

Our natural state is peaceful, and we distract ourselves from our distractions by calming our minds.  This helps us organize our environment to allow creativity to blossom.  Therefore, we must give children time to access their natural states and find their gifts.  While children are young, parents should provide free play opportunities in safe, print- and material-rich environments that foster observation, manipulation, communication, and creativity.  By age four, a child’s brain is 50% developed; by the teenage years, 80% of the brain is developed.  Instead of constantly ensuring your child is “doing something productive,” give them time to be themselves…and watch the fantastic ways they will use that time.

At least once each day, set aside free play time for your children.

Ideas for incorporating free play into your family life:

  • With babies and toddlers, give them a safe space that is confined & secure.  Let them explore the playroom, for instance, while you are nearby reading a book.
  • Remember: safety first.  Before giving babies, toddlers, and young children free play time, remove potentially dangerous items such as hot tea and coffee, knives, and other sharp objects from the area.
  • With tweens and teens, allow them an allotted amount of time outside of homework, after-school activities, and hanging out with friends – 30 minutes or 1 hour – where electronics are off, and you are nearby.  Ensure they have plenty of tools such as paper, pens, pencils, journals, books, paint supplies, gardening, cooking supplies, arts and crafts, and other non-electronic activities that they can choose from.

You can start with one of these practices at a time, starting with one that best suits your family structure and schedule.  Once your family has incorporated one or more of these practices into the daily routine, note any differences: can your child focus more?  Does your child seem more relaxed and happy?  Is your child able to create some amazing artwork or come to any fantastic discoveries during free play?

The important thing is to remember to put the focus back on your family and prioritize time together.