Stress is a condition or feeling that is developed when some demands are placed on a person and expectations are that he/she will be able to fulfill those demands. These demands or expectations could be from different sources including family, friends, at school, at work or from society. Some expectations can also be from within ourselves too. Stress forms the foundation of being overwhelmed. Each individual may have different experiences and thus varied reactions to stress.
Stress among Kids:
Children are also prone to anxiety and fear that could lead to stress. It could be because of pressure from family, academic or peer pressure in their society. These serve as stress pressures and may include:
- Beginning a new school,
- Moving to a new city or location,
- Separation from parents or siblings,
- Physical changes in their bodies or sickness,
- Interaction in a new environment etc.
Symptoms of Stress:
A big challenge is of recognizing stress symptoms among kids. Here are some signs or stress among kids:
Physical Signs of Stress:
- Frequent headaches
- Increased heartbeat
- Anxiety and fatigue
- Thumb chewing
- Physical sickness such as cold, cough, fever etc.
- Change in bowel movements
- Change in sleeping habits
- Change in eating habits
Emotional/Behavioral Signs of Stress:
- Mood swings
- Emotional outburst
- Withdrawing oneself from society and friends
- Lack of focus and concentration
- Being sad, crying and angry frequently for no reason
- Showing tantrums
- Bedtime nightmares etc.
These symptoms/signs are clear indications for a kid facing stress.
Healthy Strategies for Dealing with Stress:
A child suffering from stress would show significant improvement both physically and emotionally if parents or caregivers think strategically to give them healthy and appropriate response. Here are some tips and strategies for parents and caregivers that would help them in better understanding of stress and addressing it.
Be involved in what your kids feel, behave and do: Many a times a child may act differently at home and at school with others around them. It is always best to remain involved in a child’s world both inside and outside their home so that you know what your child is doing, facing and has concerns about.
Make your Child Understand Stress: The word stress would be unknown to your kid especially at a very young age. This is why your kid may be confused and may use negative feelings to express it. Everything around them may seem annoying or fearful for them. Remain calm and listen to what your child is feeling and try to figure out source of stress. Let your child understand that stress is normal and everyone faces it whether it is them or adults. Also keep that in mind that one thing that may be stressful for a child may not be stressful for another.
Develop Trust and Support them: Reassure your child that you understand their feelings. Develop a feeling of trust between you and your child. Make them believe that they can trust and tell them their feelings. Let them know that mistakes always bring lessons of life for them to learn. Support them but encourage them to solve their problems on their own with your support, if possible of course. Always be there to help them.
Show Warmth and Love: If stress is because of any change, give them some additional time for accepting change. Give some extra love, kisses and hugs to make them feel protected, comfortable and loved. This additional love would encourage them and give them more confidence to adapt to change of environment or other stress factors.
Avoid Being too Rigid: Expectations should be clear but avoid being too rigid. A little bit of flexibility would do the needful; however you should always stick to their routine/schedule? Do not schedule activities or tasks more than your child could handle. Learn what your child want rather than emphasizing on what you want them to do.
Present a Good Example: Avoid begin overwhelmed with stress and even make sure you express your anger in an appropriate manner. When you use effective strategies of dealing with stress, you present a good example and would ultimately encourage your child to opt for stress reducing activities.
Give your Child some Control: Overdoing control would affect their level of confidence. Give your child freedom of making choices within framework of your family. Arrange for activities where your child can participate and make choices. They can choose to arrange their room or toys in the way they like.
Plan Ahead of Time: If there is something new or different expected to happen such as change of school or house or a new sibling, plan ahead and give required explanation way before the event is about to happen. Make sure you maintain their routine and prepare your child a few weeks in advance for the change. Allowing time for understanding and processing would make the transition less stressful for your child. Although it is better to avoid providing too much of information or it could become confusing for your child. Make the transition or change smoother.
Limit TV Exposure & Screen Time: Limit screen viewing time whether it is TV, computer games, phones etc. Not only limit screen time but also monitor what your child is watching.
Teach Relaxation Skills: Educate your child with some relaxation skills. These skills include breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, artwork or other similar activities that would reduce their stress.
Ask for Support:If you as a parent or caregiver are not sure of stress factors or on techniques for dealing with certain stress that your child is going through, you may seek help of a licensed health professional (psychologist). These professionals are trained with special education and training to identify stress and would be able to propose stress combating techniques and strategies.
With these simple tips and strategies, you are arming your child with stress fighting factors that would help them throughout their lives. Once your child learn and develop healthy ways of dealing with stress, they in true terms have a strong foundation for dealing with major stressful events that may happen in life. They would carry these positive skills in to their adult life too.