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Kids and Stress

Posted In Dads, Education, Health, Infant, Moms, Parenting, Parents, Therapy, Toddlers, Young, Your Child - By Moms & To Be On Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 With 0 Comments

Children live in a constant state of carefree, joy and happiness. After all, they don’t have jobs to keep, bills to pay, or a family to provide for, so what could possibly be a reason for them to worry about?

They don’t have a reason to get stressed, or do they?

Well, kids have plenty of issues to worry about. Even the very young children have worries and feel stress to some degree.

What is Stress?

Stress is a state of mind caused by the demands placed on us and our ability to meet them. These demands can either come from outside sources, such as family, friends, or school, but it also can come from within, often related on how we think we should perform versus what we are capable of doing.

Sources of Stress

Stress can affect anyone who feels overwhelmed even little kids. Separation from parents, social pressure, fear of not performing well in school or even school play can all cause anxiety in children.

Kids’ stress may be intensified by more than one source. A relative’s illness, listening to their parents’ arguments or even hearing their parents complain about work, or financial matters. Bottom line, kids can sense their parent’s anxiety and this can be a big stressor for them. That is why parents should watch how they discuss such issues when their kids are near.

What children watch on the TV can also cause stress. Natural disasters, violence, news of war, or even a movie that contains scenes of abuse, or aggression can cause children to over think and relate these stories to their own lives. Parents should always monitor what their children watch on TV so that they can provide counseling and explanation about what’s going on in order for the child to have a better understanding of what he/she sees.

Complication factors that might magnify the child’s stress often include a death in the family, an illness, or a divorce. This might be the best time to seek the guidance of a professional to help the child cope with the new situation.

Moreover, parents should acknowledge that some things that might seem meaningless to them are actually a big deal for their children. So it’s really important to let the children know that you recognize those worries and sympathize with them.

Identifying Anxious Habits

Often children will express their anxiety through behaviors or anxious habits. Stress and anxiety can lead to poor and inconsistent sleeping patterns, depression, fears, difficulties with social interaction and isolation, and sometimes even depression.

Habits/symptoms that may be signs of anxiety or stress include: negative changes in behavior, nail biting, chewing on fingers, picking on clothing, inconsistent sleep routine, stomach aches, headaches, fear, worry, distress or isolation.

Watch for negative changes in behavior. Young children find it hard to recognize and verbalize the feeling of stress. That is why stress manifests itself through changes in behavior. Common changes can include acting irritable or moody, withdrawing from activities that used to give them pleasure, routinely expressing worries, complaining more than usual about school, crying, displaying surprising fearful reactions, clinging to a parent or teacher, sleeping too much or too little, or eating too much or too little. While negative behavior is not always linked to excessive stress, negative changes in behavior are almost always a clear indication that something is wrong.

Understand that “feeling sick” may be caused by stress. Stress can also appear in physical symptoms such as stomach aches or headaches. If the child is frequently complaining about stomach aches and headaches and his physical tests are good, then stress could be the reason.

Be aware of how your child interacts with others. The child can still have the usual behavior at home. But suddenly, complaints start coming from school or friends that he’s being unusually aggressive or moody.

Listen and translate. Children cannot verbalize their feelings like adults do. They cannot say I feel anxious or stressed. But they often say: nobody loves me, I cannot do it, nothing is fun, and I don’t want to do this. Listen and translate what the child is saying to get to the bottom of the issue.

Physical habits: Nail biting and thumb sucking are fairly typical childhood habits. However, when excessive, they might indicate that something is bothering the child. Although using different techniques to minimize these habits like putting band aid or polishing the nails might help with the symptoms, they do not solve the problem. Solve the problem and the habits might just disappear.

How to Help:

–          Set a good bedtime routine and habits. Having enough sleep improves concentration, boosts the immune system and aids in relaxation.

–          Make time for conversation. Either around the dinner table or in private with your child. Talk about how the day went, good times he/she had and bad times too. Discuss the worries, fears, hopes, and dreams.

–          Exercise with your child. Put some music and dance or have some time to play outside on sunny days. Physical activities help increase the feeling of well being and boost self-confidence. It also can act like a stress reliever.

–          Let your child come up with coping strategies to reduce the stressors. Discuss how he/she feels about something or when put in a certain situation and let him/her come up with ideas on what to do to make it better.

–          Let your child know that everything will be ok and that you will always be there for support.

–          Seek the advice of a psychologist or school counselor if you feel your child is going through a hard time.

Although some stress can give a boost for better achievement, it can also be distressing for a child to be dealing with it alone. Even adults need a good support system around them when going through stressful times. For a child, the biggest support system starts at home with his parents.

Nisrine Feghali

Early Childhood Education-TD.

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