Everyone accepts stress as a daily reality, especially in Lagos. But, have you ever wondered how the Lagos lifestyle of “hustling” affects our children’s health? Reports say that Lagos is the third most stressful city in the world! Third! The countries in spot one and two are war torn Countries.
Stress surrounds us on a daily basis. From traffic delays to work, to worries about finances or health and the demands on our everyday lives. Stressors (which are the things that cause your stress) can be physical, emotional, or environmental.
Stress raises the body’s anxiety level. When we are under stress, the “fight or flight” response kicks in, raising blood pressure and heart rate. Stress does not respect any age and children are also affected by stress; this is why we should try our best to reduce our stressors.
There are some factors you can control and some that are out of our control when it comes to handling stress. What you control 100% is how you react to stress in your life (or at least most of the time). Awareness is key to preventing and reducing the effect of toxic stress in kids.
Here’s how to Minimize the Effects of Lagos Stress
The main causes of stress in Lagos are traffic, lack of infrastructure like electricity, also high on the list is finance and the inability to earn enough. Most homes are dual income homes, because both parents many times need to work to earn and provide a certain level of security for their families.
All these factors directly and indirectly affect our children’s health as children are now being diagnosed with “adult diseases”.
Healthy and Nutritious Meals
Having a balanced diet and eating the right nutrients everyday is an important step towards improving your health and well-being. What your children eat has a direct effect on their ability to function and grow healthy. Start them off right in the morning with a good breakfast and help them make the right choices throughout the day. Some foods that help with concentration and mood are avocados, fish and chicken. [Read: How to Boost your Mood with Food]. In case you need help with Meals for School, you can get a copy of LagosMums Back to School Meal timetable here
Choice of School
Children sometimes get up as early as 4.30 am to start the journey to school. Sometimes, it takes them over 3 hours to get to school. You cannot control the traffic. However, what you can try to control is the choice of school. A child who goes to a great school but spends six hours on the road will rarely be a good student. Try and find a good school near your house to reduce time spent in traffic or if you can, move closer to the school or put the child in boarding.
More and more children are loosing the ability to have meaningful social interactions with other people because devices have taken over. We can never replace quality human touch and interaction with the virtual world. Encourage your children and family to have meaningful and quality time together. Share a meal, limit screen time, play games together and share a hug daily. Keep the human interaction high on the list, it boosts moods and reduces stress.
Social media is awesome and it lets you reach people in ways that you can’t if you’re not in the same location. However, there is a point when excess consumption of social media can add to stress. Things like FOMO come into play, children are especially susceptible to this whereby they compare their lives to those they see on social media. Not everything you see is accurate, if children start to compare themselves to an ideal that is not healthy from an early age; it affects their self esteem and becomes a source of stress. Implement screen time limits and monitor how long they spend on social media.
Words of Affirmation
Words have power! The way you speak to your child makes such a huge difference. If you constantly berate your child and compare them to their siblings or others, you add to their stress. There is a way words can build up and this is not what you want to do regularly. As a parent, do not take out your stress on your children, the damage might be irreparable. Listen to them when they want to talk to you, communicate with them and spend time with them. It is not always about the quantity of time but the quality of time. Try not to be distracted by other things when they want a deep conversation with you.
All work and no play makes Bode a dull boy. We have all heard different variations of this saying. Children need to relax in some way everyday. Let them get a chance to have some fun doing what they love. It could be reading a book, listening to music, playing a game with you or dancing. No one can be serious all the time (yes even you mummy) so help them reduce stress by relaxing and having some fun. For example when the kids get home from school, I encourage them to spend some time relaxing before they start homework.
The quantity of homework that children come home with sometimes is unbelievable. I recommend having a chat with their teachers or school heads to understand how much time children should be spending on homework everyday. After spending hours in school, possibly hours in traffic, then to have homework that takes hours to complete. This can certainly add to the stress of anyone, talk less of a child. More parents should have this conversation with the schools.
Finance and Money Matters
Money matters is a cause of stress if not properly managed. it affects our children in a big way, because if the parents are stressed about their finances it will spill over to their children. There are several ways to manage the pressure of finances. One is to live within your means rather than try to keep up with the “Joneses”. Instead of going to every owambe and buying aso ebi every month, save your money so you can invest and let it grow. I believe everyone should have multiple sources of income, this is where the internet is very useful. Having passive income or a side hustle that can augment your income is very easy. So don’t dull and say you do not make enough money while you can do something about it.
Time management is a critical skill everyone needs. The ability to prioritize is important. There are things you can do to help your child develop good management skills. For example you can take out time wasting activities from their daily schedule; this includes no TV during the week, no smart phones till the weekend etc. One other area is to ask if they really need a lesson teacher, if you have a lesson teacher who comes and takes an additional two hours of their time (not helping with homework) that has to change. Help them learn how to do the right thing at the right time as well.
Children need to move. Most people live in concrete jungles; which means there might be no green area or outside place for children to play easily. However, you can encourage them to get outside and get some sun. I bought a small trampoline that could fit in our compound; so instead of watching Television during the week they can go outside and expend some energy. They can also get some vitamin D from the sunlight while they are at it.
In summary my fellow dear parents, see there are many things we cannot control about the Lagos lifestyle. However when it comes to our children’s health and well being there are many things in our control we can try to manage. Oh and yes if you are stressed as a mum or parent, try some of these steps too!