Parenting is the most stressful thing we do, and with the growing demands of life, it is easy to forget, even children get stressed.
What causes stress?
Children increasingly suffer the effects of stress and feel overwhelmed with pressures from school and social life. Between all the schoolwork, homework, after school activities and bullying, children are super stressed out. In addition to these, some children can have other sources of stress such as their parents’ divorce, changing schools, trying to fit in, moving home or cities.
Children have different levels of tolerance for stress, some may not be bothered by change of school for example, and another may get very stressed out by it. Sometimes as adults we may feel the issue is small, such as a disagreement with a friend, but this too can be a source of stress.
How to tell if your child is stressed
In general, children may show physical, emotional or behavioural signs. Some of the common ones include:
- mood swings
- emotional outbursts
- cry more
- withdrawal from usual activities
- trouble focusing and concentration
- express insecurity and talk negatively about themselves
- stomach aches
- changes in sleep
- changes in appetite
How you can help reduce your child’s anxiety & stress
1. Listen & Communicate.
Good communication is key to any strong relationship and listening is of utmost importance. It is important to sit down and give them your full attention when communicating.
Children are not always familiar to the word stress and its meaning, and may therefore express their feelings of distress through words such as “worried,” “annoyed” and “angry”. Help children put words to their feelings. Ask them if they are feeling nervous, scared or worried. Do this with a calm tone of voice and without an accusation tone of voice. Ask open ended questions and keep asking what else is bothering them, this will help you get to the root cause of the stress. Let them feel heard and listen without giving solutions. As soon as the child feels heard and understood, they will naturally start to feel able to cope.
2. Focus on the positives.
Many times anxious and stressed children can get lost in negative thoughts and self-criticism. They focus on what they do not know, are not able to do and worry about future events. The more you able to focus on your child’s positive attributes and good aspects of a situation, the more it will remind your child to focus on their positives.
For example they may say “this exam will be so hard, I will fail.” As a parent, you can remind them of all the revision they have done and the times they have got good marks and passed. The more positive children are, the more relaxed they will be.
3. Stop overscheduling
One of the biggest stressors for children is being overscheduled, yet today, they are expected to pay attention in class all day, excel at extracurricular activities, come home, finish homework and go to sleep and repeat it all over again on the next day.
Children need time to relax, their brains and bodies need to rest, and they may not realise this and therefore knowing when your child is overscheduled is important. One way to tell is, paying attention to how your family is eating their meal. If everybody is eating on the run, in the car, grabbing and going then that’s a clear indicator that too much is going on and you may need to decrease some activities.
Allow your children to have chill out times between activities; fun and relaxing times where the children can play without pressure and competition. Spend time with them playing with their favourite toys, painting, dancing to loud music, walking in the park or eating as a family.
4. Model coping strategies
Slow down as much as you can, children are deeply affected by the stresses and strains of adults around them. When parents are stressed out, children are stressed out, as the saying goes “actions speak louder than words.” Demonstrate to your children how to cope with stress by dealing with difficulties in a calm, relaxed and effective manner.
So the next time you have had a tough day or are going through any particular worries, its ok to tell your children why you were upset– but say something that puts the situation in perspective.
5. Be Patient
For children a lot of stress comes from fear of making mistakes, remind your children that they are not supposed to know how to do everything and do it right. Teach them it’s ok to fail sometimes, but more importantly teach them how to bounce back from it.
As a parent it hurts to see your child upset, unhappy or stressed and even though as parents you can solve every problem, teaching healthy coping strategies prepares your child to manage the stresses that may come in the future.
Do you need more help?
Some children when seriously stressed can become prone to depression and anxiety in addition to behavioural problems. If your child’s behaviour becomes out of control or if you are concerned about excessive stress, contact me on 07779645834 or email me at Priya@NLP4Kids.org
By Priya Amlani