Helping Children Cope with Stress

Helping Children Cope with Stress

More and more children are undergoing stress. Exhaustion resulting from the pressures of life seems like something only adults deal with. But this isn’t the case. A child probably has more to worry about than you know. Childhood stress is a serious concern that is aggravated by external factors like school, peer pressure, social media, and more. It is important to realize what is going on when kids exhibit symptoms of stress.

What Causes Childhood Stress?

Children are synonyms for happiness in adults’ minds. It can be alarming to realize that a child is undergoing stress. We get worn out both physically and emotionally due to societal pressures around issues that matter to us. So do kids. Like adults, they weigh their abilities against the demands of other people or their own expectations. A child can feel stressed from thinking that he or she is underperforming. Even worse, children feel overwhelmed in their lives and in yours. Older kids who are trying to fit in with their peers can feel enormous amounts of stress at school. They typically want their school work and social life to be at par with those of their peers.

Another enormous source of stress for kids is getting overscheduled. Kids do too much these days and seldom have relaxing activities locked into their calendars. Yes, kids have calendars now, entrusted to their caretakers. Children today undergo an overwhelming amount of extracurricular activities, many of them mentally tasking rather than relaxing. If your child is exhibiting signs of withdrawal, anxiety, or lack of enthusiasm, he or she may be doing too much.

Changes in a child’s life can cause stress. Whenever a child has to adapt to a big change, they are likely to get stressed. This is the case whether the disruption to their routine is positive or negative. When a family is undergoing changes, a child usually feels threatened. If parents are going through a divorce or separation, the child can feel a sense of loss. Children feel stressed even where the divorce is amicable. Parents have to make sure that their children are not taking in too much from the split. It is a good idea to never say anything negative about the other spouse to children. 

Even where families are together, upheavals and disruptions such as tight finances can take a toll on children. This is the case where children hear their parents arguing over family issues. Similarly, death and illness in the family can aggravate a child’s stress. 

Another serious source of stress is social media. In the past, children felt peer pressure at an in-person level. Today, the pressure lives with them. Not only do they get to hear about how fantastic the parties they didn’t get invited to were but now they get to see the photos too. On top of this, connectivity exposes children to violence and other age-inappropriate content that only adds to their stress. Caretakers have an increasing duty to regulate what children can access on the internet. 

Although the world of children looks so carefree, childhood is losing its appeal to stress. It’s critical for adults to actively help kids cope.

Untangling Our Kids From Stress

It’s not easy to recognize when kids are undergoing stress. Checking out how their actions and behaviors change can help. Are they acting differently? Are there any changes in their sleep patterns? What about physical signs like stomach troubles or headaches? Some kids can showcase stress through new or recurrent bedwetting. In younger children, you may notice new habits like sucking on a thumb or twirling the hair. Much older kids exhibit stress by social withdrawal, refusal to engage in activities they were once interested in, bullying, lying, and disobedience. Children may also have nightmares or be unwilling to let their parents out of their sight. Stress can manifest as anxiety in some children and they can become depressed if symptoms are ignored.

References

  1. KidsHealth Behavioral Health Experts, Childhood Stress. Retrieved from kidsHealth.org.
  2. MedlinePlus, Stress in Childhood. 
  3. Gina Shaw, 10 Reasons Your Child Might be Stressed
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