How can I help my child healthily cope with stress? This is a question that many parents fail to ask themselves. To adults, the world of children always seems like a happy and carefree time. After all, kids don’t have bills and responsibilities, so what could they possibly worry about? Plenty! Things like their social lives and school activities can sometimes create pressures that are overwhelming for them. As a result, children often experience stress.
As a parent, you can’t protect your child from stress – however, you can help them develop strategies on how to deal with the stress they face in a healthy way.
Some parents, however, don’t know how to help their children manage stress in a healthy way. This is because they can’t identify the signs and symptoms of their child being stressed.
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What are the Signs and Symptoms of Stress in a Child?
As stated earlier, some parents find it difficult to identify the signs and symptoms of stress in their kids. Moreover, let’s be honest, it isn’t always easy to recognize when your little kid is stressed out. However, short-term behavioral changes such as changes in sleep patterns, bedwetting, or mood swings can be signs and symptoms of stress.
Also, children may not even realize that they’re stressed out. As a result, some physical and behavioral signs might emerge that you must watch out for as a parent.
Behavioral and emotional signs
Some emotional and behavioral signs of stress may include:
- Worry and anxiety
- Behavioral changes such as clinginess, aggression, or a short temper.
- Fears (such as fear of being alone, fear of strangers, and fear of the dark)
- Getting into trouble often
- Difficulty concentrating
- Refusing to go to school
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Not able to control emotions or relax
Some physical signs of stress may include:
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Headaches or stomachache complaints
- Not being able to sleep
- Other physical symptoms
What are the Common Causes of Stress in Childhood?
The causes of stress in children may be external such as a conflict with a friend, family problems, or a problem at school. It can also be caused by a child’s internal feelings and pressures, such as fitting in with peers or doing well in school. Highlighted below are some of the common causes of stress in kids:
Big changes in the family
Some big changes in the family such as divorce, relocation, or death of a family member can shake your child’s sense of security and lead to stress. For example, a death in the family may trigger fear about death in the child.
Many children face academic pressure because they experience anxiety about doing well in school. As a parent, it’s your duty to help your kid cope with academic pressures. Children that experience academic pressure are often scared of making mistakes or not being good at something. Thus, you need to help your kid develop a growth mindset. This will make them believe that they can achieve anything as long as they work hard and are willing to learn.
One of the biggest problems children face today is bullying. As a result, children who are bullied may hide it from their parents or teachers. This is because they are afraid of drawing attention to their perceived weaknesses.
News on catastrophic events
It can be pretty upsetting for kids to see news headlines and images showing violence, terrorism, and natural disasters. This is because they might be troubled that these terrible news events might affect someone they love.
Family turmoil, debts, and job concerns can make a child worry. The child will have an overwhelming sense of powerlessness because they don’t have the means to help. Thus, this can often lead to stress.
This is a common cause of stress that affects both children and adults alike. If your kid is constantly running from one activity to another without rest, it will no doubt cause a great deal of stress.
Separation anxiety can be a common problem for younger grade-schoolers. As they get older, most of them want to fit in with their peers. However, they don’t find it easy because the pressure to fit in and be popular can be agonizing. As a result, children having that feeling of being excluded are usually worried and stressed out.
How to talk to your kid about stress
As a parent, you should offer support and assistance to help your kid better manage life’s challenges by talking to them. Therefore, here are some tips on talking with your child about stress:
- Stop whatever you’re doing and listen when your child is talking about their concerns.
- Express interest in what they’re saying but don’t be intrusive.
- Listen carefully to your kid’s point of view.
- Before you respond, let them finish airing their concerns.
- You should know that your kid may test you and only tell you a small part of their concerns. Be empathic and avoid teaching early in the discussion and they may share the rest of the story.
- As a parent, you should take note of when your kid is most likely to talk and be available. For example, it’s probably easier to talk to your 5-year-old daughter when reading bedtime stories to her than when she’s playing with her dolls.
- Start the conversation; ask about their day or if anything interesting happened in school. This shows that you care about what’s happening in their lives.
- Learn about your kid’s interests and show interest in them.
Respond politely and thoughtfully
- You shouldn’t appear angry, defensive, or judgmental when interacting with your kid.
- Know that it’s healthy to disagree sometimes. Instead of arguing over who is right, you could say, “you might disagree with me but this is what I think”.
- During your conversation, focus on your kid’s feelings rather than your own.
Strategies to help your child cope with stress in a healthy way
There are healthy ways your child can cope and react to stress – they simply need help and guidance. Here are some tips you can apply to help your kid:
- Be a positive role model. Children often look up to their parents when growing up. Hence, always try and keep your own stress under control and manage it in healthy ways.
- Encourage physical activity.
- Spend quality time with your child.
- Learn to listen to your child without being critical or judgmental before they finish airing their views.
- Always inform your child of any anticipated changes such as in jobs or relocation. You should also talk through the new scenarios with them.
- Encourage your child often because this will build your child’s feelings of self-worth. Try to involve your child in activities they can excel at.
- Give your child the opportunity to have control over situations in their lives. This will help them respond better to stress.
- Create a relaxed home atmosphere for your child.
- Commit to a family routine. Family game night activities can help relieve stress.
- Monitor your kid’s books, TV shows, and video games. This is because some news broadcasts, violent games, or shows can create fear and anxiety in your child.
- Your methods of discipline should promote healthy self-esteem.
- Recognize signs of physical and behavioral stress in your child.
- Seek advice from childcare experts when signs of stress do not decrease.
Stress and anxiety are all-too-common problems children face today. As a parent, you have to realize that your child (especially younger grade-schoolers) may not be able to understand or explain their own feeling. Older children may understand their concerns; however, that’s no guarantee that they’d be willing to share them with you. Therefore, you should be aware of changes in your child’s behavior because it’ll help you better spot problems before they affect your child the most.
As a parent, you can’t solve every problem as your child goes through life. However, teaching healthy coping strategies will prepare your child on how to cope with stress in the future.