Adults are not the only ones to suffer from stress and anxiety! Learn how to help your child develop the skills needed to live a less stressful and more healthy lifestyle.
If a child in your care needed help with learning a new skill, like writing his or her name or counting to fifty, you’d be quick to provide assistance. If a child in your care has a physical need, you’re ready and waiting with the required help. How are you doing at teaching your kids to manage the stress in their lives?
A common answer to that question is “Stress? What stress? My kids have no stress in their lives!” True, children do not have stressors that most adults consider tough. They do not deal with job pressures, financial worries, or marriage maintenance. However, children DO carry enormous amounts of stress in their day to day lives of which most adults are unaware.
Children’s stress comes from the same types of mechanisms that cause adult stress, but are often not considered is problematic in the young person’s life. It’s just wrapped in different packages of details and is easily overlooked. Children feel stress from their home life. Obvious stressors are things like divorce, a family move, the loss of a pet, illness or injury of a family member, and so on. Others that are less often considered are arguing adults or siblings, overhearing/misunderstanding adult comments, minor illnesses, and reprimands. Very few homes are completely free of those!
Children also feel stress from social pressures at surprisingly young ages. Peer pressure, teasing, and isolation are all alive and well in the preschool and young elementary school. And more often than in the past, children lack the emotional and social support to handle stress in their lives. In many cases, extended families are far away, families do not form close connections with other families through church or other organizations, and even parents are less accessible to many children because of divorce, work commitments, and so forth. Children on their own emotionally are more susceptible to stress-related problems.
With any group of people, the amount of stress that is comfortable will vary dramatically among individuals and will fluctuate from time to time. How can you tell if your child is having trouble with stress? Sometimes they show the same symptoms as adults: complaints of headache, stomach ache, sleeplessness, or tiredness. However, because the child IS a child, these complaints can often be overlooked by the adults in charge. The comments are written off as “unimportant” and the kids are told to “find something else to do.”
If you are concerned, try keeping a journal of times and patterns when your child makes these statements. Kids (even highly verbal ones and even older ones) have a great deal of difficulty recognizing and verbalizing tension in themselves. They rely on adults to notice that “something” is wrong and help them isolate the source. Because of this lack of self-awareness, children are more likely to exhibit emotional or social symptoms such as isolation, tantrums, or whining. They may act out with others, have trouble making or keeping friends, be stubborn, show impatience, or have difficulty concentrating. These are easily passed off as “being naughty” and treated as behavior issues when they are really a sign that a child needs help with stress management.