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Schoolchildren use the word stress regularly, research suggests


Young people, aged between 8 and 11, regularly use the word 'stress', new research suggests. A survey of 1,000 children in England found that 9 in 10 of the respondents use the word stress often. Furthermore, 90% of children felt that their parents are 'not there' because they are distracted by their phone.

The research has received national media cover for shining a light on issues that are close to teachers, parents and children. It was headed by author, coach and trainer on The Coaching Academy’s Coaching within Education programme, Lorraine Thomas, in partnership with the International Positive Education Network and Buckingham University. We sat down with Lorraine to discuss her work with stress management and children and these new findings. 

Can you please tell me a bit about your background as an author and coach? 

I trained with The Coaching Academy when I was pregnant with my daughter, Holly. She is now 17 years’ old. To begin with, I coached executives in the city, but my passion was always for the working mums and dads. Deciding to set up The Parent Coaching Academy, I have never looked back. There has always been a lot of media interest in the work I do, and I have been commissioned to write five very different books including The 7-Day Parent Coach, Get A Life, The Mummy Coach and Brilliantly Behaved Toddler.  

My latest book, Super Coach Arty Vs The Shadow (JKP) - is a storybook full of stress management ideas from children – for children.  It is full of tips to help children listen to their ‘inner coach’ and manage their ‘inner critic.’ This is very exciting for me as it brings together my passion as a coach and my love of writing.  

My work as a coach has taken me in many different directions – and I love it.  I deliver many seminars to education leaders, companies, parents and children on a range of issues including stress management – both across the UK and internationally.  I was also selected as national’s spokesperson to do media interviews for the launch of Disney’s Inside Out – because of my expertise in resilience.  

What’s children’s relationship with stress according to your findings?

Children clearly struggle to cope with stress. When I first started coaching, stress was a word that I would often hear from students in Years 12 and 13 as they were working for A-Levels. Now I coach in Junior and Infant Schools where I hear it on a daily basis. 

Who is handling stress well in their eyes?

The research reveals that children believe teachers manage stress the best, then children and only 10% said parents managed it well. One child said Alexa – a virtual assistant developed by Amazon – managed stress better than a parent because ‘she says things calmly and doesn’t get annoyed”.

What does the ‘Alexa factor’ tell us about current pitfalls in healthy stress management?

I have talked to lots of children and parents about the ‘Alexa’ factor. Many mums and dads have used Alexa to help them when they feel really stressed and are finding children’s behaviour challenging. It is an opportunity to step back and reflect on what Alexa is doing that parents aren’t. She’s calm, confident and consistent. The neuroscientists tell us that it takes 30 days to establish a good habit – and the key is to be calm, confident and consistent. If you can get to 7 days … you are over 95% likely to get to the 30-day mark.

What stands out for you in these findings? What can we learn from them?

We live in a world that is struggling to cope. We must put emotional coaching at the heart of families and schools. If we can help children to know that all of their emotions are natural and normal – not some good and some bad – they will be able to cope with all of the challenges that life throws at them. I am privileged to work with many experts from different fields we know that the digital world is creating a whole new level of stress. Not just for children, but for parents and teachers too.

How can parents and teachers use this study to better manage their own behaviour?

I deliver a very successful seminar called Stress Management for Children – 7 Good Habits of Great Parents and Teachers. Children always hold up a mirror to their parents.  Parents and teachers can be powerful, positive role models. It’s essential that we help them manage their own stress, to own their own emotions, to be in the driving seat and recognise there are always good choices. There is always stuff that happens outside our control, but by listening to our inner coach we can find a way through.

Can you please share some of your top tips for healthy stress management?

I have so many tips and tools for healthy stress management. Here is one of my favourites.  It’s a simple A … B… C

A:  Accept how you feel. Acknowledge it and own it. It’s is a normal part of who you are.  I always get children to ‘name it and tame it’. Giving an emotion a name is the first step to managing it.

B:  Breathe and focus on your breathing (in like your favourite pizza and out like a bubble). The neuroscientists tell us that if we can ‘sit and observe’ an emotion for 90 seconds – our body really begins to relax.  You can’t be stressed and relaxed at the same time. I ask children to visualise the feeling and put it into something light – a bubble, a cloud or a balloon. At the end of the visualisation, they can blow it away.

C:  Connect with your inner coach and choose how you want to respond with action inside your control.

If you are interested in Parent Coaching and would like to be trained by Lorraine Thomas, please follow this link to discover more about our upcoming Coaching Within Education Programme on 20th of May in Central London: https://www.the-coaching-academy.com/cie/