Stress and Children
As much as we thirst for approval we dread condemnation ~ Hans Selye
As adults and caretakers, we tend to view children as carefree and happy beings. Children do not have bills to pay, jobs to do, children to take care off, so what could possibly worry kids? Stress is a function of demands placed on us and our ability to deal with them. Demands usually come from outside sources, family, friends, jobs or school. But demands also come from within, often related to what we think we should be doing as against what we're actually able to do. So stress can affect anyone who feels overwhelmed - even kids. In pre-school children, separation from parents can cause anxiety. As kids get older, academic and social pressures (especially from trying to fit in) create stress. Many kids are too busy to have time to play creatively or relax after school. Kids who complain about all their activities or who refuse to go to them might be overscheduled.
Signs and Symptoms
Stress and anxiety in children and teenagers are just as prevalent as in adults. Stressed out and negligent parents, high expectations in academic or other performances, abused or deprived childhood, growing up tensions and demand for familial responsibility are the main causes of childhood and teen stress. Parents, who are not emotionally available for their children or lack positive coping mechanisms themselves, often spur stress in their offspring. Stressed children show signs of emotional disabilities, aggressive behaviour, bed wetting, mood swings, acting out, changes in sleep patterns, shyness, social phobia and often lack interest in otherwise enjoyable activities. Some children also experience physical effects manifestations like headaches and stomach aches. Others have trouble concentrating or completing schoolwork. Still others become withdrawn or spend a lot of time alone. A child who is stressed may also have nightmares, difficulty leaving you, overreactions to minor problems, and drastic changes in academic performance. Research tells us that children, who are forced to live on prematurely adult levels, sometimes become oppositional to following the parents’ rules (or those of society). Such children tend to respond to stressors with aggression and indignation. Kids’ stress get intensified when they hear parents talking about troubles at work, or some relative’s illness, or arguments between parents regarding financial matters. Children tend to pick up anxiety from their parents and worry themselves internally. Parents should watch their own behaviour and what they say in front of children.
Points to follow:
Many teenagers tend to become nonconformists and fall prey to teenage depression in response to a variety of growing up anxieties. However, stress induced fears and anxiety in children adversely affect children’s performances at various levels.
’Points to Follow’ for Both Children and Parents:
• Talk with your child. Find out what’s happening in his life. Be honest and open with him. He should talk about his problems or write them down. Teach him to transfer coping strategies to other situations.
• Don’t burden them with your problems. But, tell children about the family’s goals and discuss difficulties in a friendly manner.
•Compliment children when they do well, and don’t forget hugs and kisses.
•Use humour to buffer bad feelings and situations. A child who learns to use humour himself will be better able to keep things in perspective.
•Don’t overload your child with too many after-school activities and responsibilities. Let children learn to pace themselves. Don’t enrol them in every class that comes along, and don’t expect them to be first in everything. Talk with your kids about how they feel about extracurricular activities. If they complain, discuss the pros and cons of stopping one activity. If stopping isn't an option, explore ways to help manage your child's time and responsibilities to lessen the anxiety.
• Set a good example. Demonstrate self-control and coping skills. He can benefit by seeing how you cope successfully with stress.
• Get friends’ or professional help when problems seem beyond your skills.
Remember that some level of stress is normal; let your kids know that it's OK to feel angry, scared, lonely, or anxious and that other people share those feelings. Reassurance is important, so remind them that you're confident that they can handle the situation. When kids can't or won't discuss their stressful issues, try talking about your own. This shows that you're willing to tackle tough topics and are available to talk with when they're ready. Most parents have the skills to deal with their child's stress. The time to seek professional attention is when any change in behaviour persists, when stress is causing serious anxiety, or when the behaviour is causing significant problems in functioning at school or at home. If a child shows symptoms that concern you and is unwilling to talk, consult a counsellor. Please feel free to make comments relating to the topic.
Author Profile : Poonam Dhandhania
Poonam Dhandhania is a counselor, life coach and meditation facilitator and has worked with teens, children and adults. She works on the internal aspect of the person by healing the emotional and psychological issues one has; so as to clear their way of external actions and success in daily living by uplifting self esteem and "you can do it" attitude. Poonam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.