Today I have the privilege of welcoming Lori Lite from Stress Free Kids. Like many moms who have gone into business for themselves, Lori’s passion comes from personal life experience with her own children.
Stress Free Kids® founder Lori Lite has created a line of books and CDs designed to help children, teens, and adults decrease stress, anxiety, and anger. As a parent, Lori spent two hours every single night trying to settle her young son down to sleep. Her daughter developed stress related night terrors and Lori herself became sick from anxiety. In an effort to help her family she created a story for her children that would entertain them while introducing them to research-based relaxation techniques. That moment began a journey that now includes 8 books, 6 CDs, and 2 curriculums. Ms. Lite’s books, CDs, and curriculums are considered a resource for parents, psychologists, therapists, child life specialists, teachers, and yoga instructors.
What started you on your journey of creating relaxation stories?
I was putting my son to sleep one night and it took us 2 hours every single night to do that. My husband and I would alternate taking turns because it was just completely unmanageable and talk about stress!
It was very stressful for one human being to handle on their own so we took turns. And I myself was extremely stressed out.
So I had gone to a stress consultant that taught me to do some very simple relaxation techniques that had an immediate effect on me. I immediately started to get well.
So one night while I was putting my son to sleep I wondered what would happen if I could get my son to take some deep breaths, maybe he would fall asleep quicker.
So I started to create a story and the story had characters in it and my son started to follow the characters along and he started to do the breathing with the characters and he fell asleep.
What are some signs of stress in children? How do I identify stress in my kids?
Some signs you should look for are clingy behaviour, nightmares, bedwetting , stomach aches, head aches, aches and pains that don’t seem to have any validity, preoccupation with a particular incident, teeth grinding, frequent meltdowns, withdrawing from friends and family and changes in sleeping patterns.
But it is really difficult to identify stress in children because a lot of these things I’ve mentioned are kind of normal for children too.
So to me it’s more of a change in behaviour. It’s more of that real distinct change where you notice a big change.
Also, trust your instinct. Moms know what’s going on before any body else does. So if something in the back of your head is saying something is going on with your kids don’t push that thought away. Pull it to the front and pay attention to it. Trust yourself. To me, that is the main thing.
How can I tell if my child’s schedule is too stressfull for them?
Read the cues your kids are giving you. If your child is whining all of the time they might be overscheduled. Certainly they’re tired.
If your kids don’t want to go, if you find yourself forcing them or dragging them into the car, and they’re telling you they don’t want to go well that’s their way of telling you they’re overscheduled. Children don’t have these words at their fingertips.
If you find they’re having a lot of meltdowns then look at their schedules, you might be overdoing it.
Some stress is good. For some kids it’s a great feeling to have a soccer game and feel that stress and excitement but then there is when stress goes too far and it makes a child unhappy.
I guess the biggest tip to me is if you feel you’re not catching your breath and you feel you’re living out of your car. Then just note it too yourself that you are out of breath and you are living out of your car and that is not necessarily the balance and the good health and wellness that you want for your family.
Can food effect stress levels?
Chemicals, dyes, additives, all of these things stress the body out. They throw you off balance. Anyone can feel when they’ve eaten sugar all day they feel out of balance.
Being out of balance is a similar feeling to being stressed out.
There is a whole other avenue of food problems and that is food allergies. That is something I spent many years dealing with.
If your diet contains a lot of caffeine and unhealthy foods your anxiety levels and stress levels go up just from that.
The fact is, your body, and your children’s bodies in particular, they need nutritious foods to run properly. And there are actually minerals out there like calcium,
magnesium and vitamins like vitamin b that actually regulate your emotions and keep you calm. Magnesium is a great thing to have before you go to bed because it helps you sleep more calmly and peacefully.
So you know what? If it’s not good for your body it’s probably not good for your mind and you could be experiencing and creating more anxiety and stress in your children’s life by feeding them poorly.
And hey, what happened to cooking together?! What happened to family meals?
I know it’s almost impossible and I’m not saying that I have family meals every night. But one thing I like to do is cook with my children. It brings us together. If you shut of the tv , you shut off the radio, you take the phone off the hook and you don’t have to run out the door to an activity, cooking together is not only a beautiful bonding experience but it is also very relaxing. Especially if you give age appropriate assignments. Kids love cooking. They love mixing, they love chopping, they love throwing things together. So I’d like to see more cooking together to help children relax.
What can a parent do who doesn’t know how to manage their own stress? How can their teach their child?
A parent who does not know how to manage their own stress can pick up one of my stories like the Angry Octopus or Sea Otter Cove. They can sit down with the child, read the story to the child and not only will the child benefit from the story but the parent who is having issues with their own anxiety will benefit from the story. You will start to feel the effects of relaxation and you know what, every body wins.
What are the relaxation techniques found in your stories?
There are some very simple techniques. They are breathing, visualizing, affirmations and progressive muscular relaxation. And all four of these techniques are so easy to do.
First of all paying attention to your breath, you’re already starting to relax. Just focusing awareness on the air going in and out of your nose. And then you can take it up a notch and you can breathe in through your nose and letting the breath out your mouth and say “ahhhhhhhh”. That is something you can do with children, children love to do it, they laugh when they say the ahhhhh. It’s just great to laugh, breathe and laugh at the same time.
Sea Otter Cove is all about breathing and the Indigo Dreams and the Indigo Ocean Dreams CD is all about breathing.
Visualizing is when you create pictures and images in your head. One of kids’ favourite visualizations is filling their body with colour. They love rainbows!
I have two stories, “A Boy and a Turtle” and “Bubble Riding” and both of those stories kids visualize the colours of the rainbow filling their body and the bubbles around them as they go for a ride.
Tell us about affirmations.
Something you want to do is introduce affirmations and the name of my book is Affirmation Weaver. It’s about a dolphin who doesn’t believe in himself and he doesn’t think he’s as smart as the other dolphins and can’t jump as high as the other dolphins. The sea creatures introduce him to using positive statements.
A lot of people don’t know what affirmations are and basically it’s a fancy word for positive statements. It’s saying something nice to yourself. “I like myself.” “I believe in myself.” “I learn easily.”
Affirmations can be used to boost your self-esteem. They can also be used to relax because you can say to yourself “I am calm, I am relaxed.” And it will help you feel more relaxed.
So it’s a wonderful tool and you can have so much fun with it. You can work together with your children to make up your own affirmations and you can put it in their pocket to go to school with them for the day to remind them of something.
Why does it seem children are more stressed these days?
I think that lots of things have changed since we were children. One of the main causes of stress, I believe, is what our children are exposed to through media. They are constantly being exposed to violent images, over-sexualized images, fast moving images. When you watch the tv now there’s text along the bottom, there are windows in the corner, there is constant, constant overstimulation.
So I think that is a big causes of stress for children.
I think that society has changed in that we are an “achievement oriented” society. Our parenting style is achievement oriented. Our children have less play time. They are afraid of war, they have experienced terrorism, the economy has created a lot of fear for families and children because children have fear that their parents are going to lose their jobs or have lost their jobs. School days are longer. All of these things add up to one big word – STRESS!
What is your mission in life?
My mission in life is to simply give parents and children the tools they need so they can self-soothe and they can manage the stress and anxiety that we’re admitting exists now for children. They can sleep more peacefully and they can believe in themselves. That is my mission in life.