There's a lot of pressure on kids these days: They're overburdened with homework and tangled in peer pressure at school and through social networking. And then there's puberty, which creates a hormonal roller coaster that throws them for a loop physically and emotionally. (And it's happening earlier and earlier.)
So if you're searching for ways to help your child negotiate the stress of growing up, here's trick numero uno: exercise.
Studies now show a direct link in kids between exercise and lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Research shows that the most physically active kids can get up in front of a group of people and, say, give a book report, without any marked increase in cortisol levels. But classmates who are sedentary have a brain-altering surge of the hormone when giving a similar talk.
So, before, during and after school, get your kids (they're never too young or too old) out there playing soccer or dodgeball, or just seeing how fast they can run around the track. And if they decide to ride a bike, skateboard, rollerblade or ride a scooter, teach them how important it is to wear a helmet.
Once kids understand that it can protect them from terrible injuries (one helmet-education program saw usage go from 10 percent to more than 80 percent), they're glad to wear them, even when you're not around! Then you'll have less stress. So get out there with your kids and teach them healthy and safe exercise habits. They will, we'll bet, teach you something, too!