Childhood is a wonderful phase of human life. Many times we wished our childhood continued for eternity. At the end of a stressful day, we often grieved, “I really do miss my childhood”. While this is quite understandable, the true picture is far different from what we might imagine.
Dr. Stanley Kutcher, Canada’s renowned expert in teen mental health says children of today are under different kinds of stress and probably less resilient than the past. Majority of kids today complain they feel isolated, emotionally harmed, misunderstood and unstable than kids of a few decades back.
A recent NPR poll says children are stressed today due to schoolwork, after-school work, tests, comparing with peers and bullying. More than one third of the parents today report their kids are under super stress which they are unable to handle.
So, times have changed and childhood is no more a carefree period. It is time you wake up to the reality. Closely watch your kids for any signs of stress and take the remedies in time. This is necessary to save them from both physical and mental harm.
Signs that your kid is stressed out
Dr. Adelle Cadieux, a pediatric psychologist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich says mood swings is the most common sign of stress. If you see your kid withdraw from people and activities, irritated, engage in negative self-talk or cry more, there are more chances that he or she is stressed. Some physical signs of stress include complaining about headaches or stomachaches, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite. Stressed kids might refuse to go school of might experience problems in getting ready for the school.
Why the alarm
A famous adage of the past says, ‘No pain, no gain’. This is highly true with life during any time. Stress is necessary for motivation and performance. To reap the benefits of stress, it is necessary to deal with it in a healthy way. But some kids tend to deal with stress in unhealthy ways which places their physical and mental wellness at risk.
Even under severe levels of stress, most kids might not start a conversation with their parents. So, even when you have enough reasons to conclude the kid experiencing stress, it is a real challenge to know what is bothering them. However, they want their parents to comfort them and assist them in coping with the troubles they face.
The fast paced life of our times has robbed the chances for parents to spend enough time with their kids. This situation deprives them of adequate levels of adult care. This is one of the serious factors that have caused the escalation of childhood stress during our times.
Dealing with your stressed kid – the right approach
If you see the signs of stress in your child, never panic. At the same time, do not overlook the situation assuming things will settle automatically. The stages to dealing with the situation are win the confidence of the kid, open up a conversation to get to know the cause of stress, assure the kid of your support and take the necessary remedies to work on the stressing factors as well as the psychology of the child.
Common sources of childhood stress
We tend to feel that the world of children is carefree to the most part. Kids do not have jobs to keep and bills to pay. Hence often we assume they are happy and settled with their regular life. This assumption is true only to a part. Though children do not have the responsibilities of the adults, they have an altogether different set of factors that could place them under stress.
‘Stress’ by itself is never a negative factor. Some amount of stress is very much necessary to stay motivated and ensure optimum performance. However, stress become unmanageable when there is no enough resilience to deal with it. In other words, the cause of stress is our inability to meet the demands placed on us. The higher the resilience of an individual, the lower is the levels of stress reported.
Stress causing factors are of two types – external and internal. The demands we face can come from sources outside of us including family, friends, workplace, society or school. It can also come from some internal factors including dissatisfaction with what we are doing. If we are forced to do something which we do not want or like or feel happy with, we are most likely to experience stress.
Stress can affect anyone and everyone if they have not developed the ability to deal with life and situations. Kids or adults who feel overwhelmed come under the impact of stress. The causes of stress differ between individuals. A preschooler might feel stressed due to separation from the parents. When the kids grow up, the academic and social demands make them feel stressed. On the whole, when we find it difficult to fit in a given situation, stress can overtake us.
Most common stress causing factors in children
- Busy academic work during and after school hours that leaves them with little time to play and do things dear to their heart
- Discussions in the family regarding financial difficulties, troubles at work or the illness of a relative
- World news, terrorism and the media influences that create fear or restlessness in kids
- Illness, death of a loved one or divorce of the parents – including that happened on peaceful grounds
Approaching a stressed kid
Keep a close watch for any changes in your child’s regular routine or behavior. Symptoms like waking up in the middle of sleep, sudden set back in academic performance, not eating properly, and withdrawal from people and situations can be really concerning factors which you must attend to with due care. Stress can be expressed through physical, emotional or behavioral signs by a child. In this regard, every child is unique and the parent must cultivate the sensitivity to deal with the kid.
When you find your kid stressed, engage in a comforting and motivating conversation to gain an entry into the child’s mind to cull out the stress causing factors. Here are some questions you can keep ready.
- What do you understand by the word ‘stress’?
- How do you understand if you are stressed?
- What factors cause you worries or stress?
- What makes you feel better when you are stressed?
Expert Parenting tips to deal with a stressed kid
- Never dismiss the fears and complaints of your child as inappropriate. Say your child, stress it is normal to feel stressed and there is a sure remedy to escape the situation. Remember your kid is too immature, inexperienced and highly sensitive. What is a silly thing for you might be a cause of a big fear in your child.
- Never discuss the financial troubles of the family in front of your kid. Often times, it is necessary to make the kid more responsible by telling the difficulties the family faces, but this must be done subtly in a way causing no anxiety.
- When the kid complains of some difficulty or trouble, never admonish them telling they are lazy or inefficient. Sit with the child and show you care for your child. Discuss the pros and cons of approaching the situation is a particular way and make the kid responsible for the decisions taken.
- Never quarrel in front of your kids or when they are at home. Quarrels between parents are one of the major causes of stress in some children.
- When the child faces some irrational fears, do not make fun or deal with it lightly. Every child wants to ensure the world is a safe place to live in. understand the cause of the confusion and help the child clarify the myths associated with the issue.
- Never criticize the people whom the kids respect and love in their lives including a teacher or a friend or a hero. If you feel the kid is becoming more of a hero worshipper, take the milder route of explaining the reality of life and prepare the kid to take a balanced approach to dealing with people rather gradually.
- Do not compare your kids with other children or with any other insider or outsider. This can leave a serious harm in children. Tell your kids that they are unique and you like them. Motivation and appreciation are the keys to enhance performance.
- Child abuse, bullying at school and a teacher who does not understand them or punishes them often can be a cause of stress in children. When such things are reported, never chide the kid saying you must be more responsible. At the same time, never handle the situation in an immature way. Deal with the people carefully but sternly at the same time not risking your child’s safety in future.
- Reduce the screen time and increase the sleeping time by bringing some changes in the daily routines. Spend some time with your kid on a regular basis to get connected and increase the bonding. Give some responsibilities in the household and some useful hobbies to stay motivated.
- Devise a comprehensive plan for your child to deal with the stress in a constructive way. Introduce the child to breathing techniques, yoga, some engaging metal games like chess, and participating in programs with a social cause to combat stress in a positive and more sustainable way. The best thing is to follow these techniques yourself along with the child.
- If the situation demands, never hesitate to get professional help from an experienced counselor to talk to your child to ease the grave situations and make the child feel better.