Adults often associate carefreeness and relaxation with childhood. However, kids also experience stress too. Their academic matters and social life can sometimes create situations that pressure them. And just like adults, these can get too overwhelming and frustrating.
As parents and adults who know all too well the feeling of stress, we want to shield our children away from that. However, it is unavoidable and the best thing to do is to help them develop healthy coping mechanisms.
Sources of stress in children
Don’t underestimate stress. It is present even in someone as young as a preschooler. You might be thinking ‘What? What could a preschooler be stressed about?’ but it’s true. When your little one starts school, they might experience separation anxiety. And as they get older, school and social pressure can result in stress.
Aside from that, stress can also develop right under our noses, in the comforts of home. Hearing you talk about work troubles or negative financial matters might intensify the stress and pressure they already feel outside. Moreso, when it is talks about illness, death of a relative, and divorce.
It is true when they say that kids pick up their parents’ anxieties and worries.
Children who are old enough to understand and comprehend words and pictures can also be stressed by world news. Disturbing images on TV or terrifying news about natural calamities and terrorism can cause them to worry about their own and loved ones’ safety.
Another thing that parents must understand is that the level of stress differs between adults and children. What could be no big deal to the older ones can be complicated and nerve-wracking for the little ones.
Signs of stress in children
Children can be predictable and since they are developing, it might be hard to pick on signs of stress.
Short-term behavioral changes, such as mood swings, changes in sleep patterns, bedwetting, or tantrums, can be indicators of stress. Aside from that, your child might suffer from stomachaches and headaches. They could also be facing concentration troubles and withdrawn from others.
Older kids might also go through behavioral problems like lying, bullying, and talking back to adults.
How to help your child with stress
Acknowledge their feelings. Your child needs validation, for their parents to tell them that what they are feeling, no matter how small, it’s okay. When you see your child sad or afraid, tell and ask them why. If needed, reassure them that you understand and know the feeling.
Help them identify emotions. Younger children are yet to express their emotions through words. Most of the time, they can’t put to words their worries and frustrations. Help them identify these so that they communicate better and develop a sense of emotional awareness.
Develop trust. Help your child realize that mistakes happen and that it’s okay. That it is vital for them to grow mentally and that they are good learning experiences.
Support your child. Listen to them. Listen to their concerns, their problems, let them express themselves. Allow them to make decisions or solve their own problems. And if needed, offer to help and always be available whenever they need you.
Give love. We sometimes underestimate what words of affirmations or what a tight hug can do. If it works for adults who are going through hard times, you bet it’ll feel a thousand times more with children. Show your little ones love, let them feel your warmth and care. Hug them often, and tell them you love them always.
Don’t overschedule. Parents might feel good when their children engage in too many activities. But too many activities can cause stress. Just like adults, when we are bombarded with too many responsibilities and work, we get stress. The same goes for children.
Be attentive. Be aware of what your child wants. Some parents can get too immersed in what and who they want their child to grow up to be that they sometimes overlooked what it is that truly interests their child. Forcing or pressuring your children to do things they don’t want to do can only cause stress to them.
Be patient. As parents, it is normal to immediately solve or take away what it is that causes stress to your child. If it is an extreme situation, please do so. But if it’s a minor obstacle, step back and instead, guide your child to be a strong problem solver.