Help your child deal with stress
You may think that stress is reserved for those of us who wait in traffic, juggle work and family, and deal with the realities of being a grown-up. But, experts say, children also experience stress. As parents, it's up to us to teach them to deal with it effectively.
Naturally, the causes and symptoms of stress vary with age. Children may experience stress on the smallest of issues; those that we may not even give a second thought to. According to experts, some of the common sources of stress for children include unfamiliar situations, unpleasant outcomes, parental and peer expectations, and major developmental hurdles such as relationships with friends and family members, and school performance.
Children may not be able to recognize that they are stressed. It's therefore important that you keep an eye out for the following symptoms:
- Language: When your child uses words such as "sad", "scared", or "worried" they could be indicative of early signs of stress. This is especially common in younger children who have not yet learned the concept of stress. Complaining about school or assignments and criticizing teachers can also be a sign that your child may be feeling stressed.
- Behaviour: Sudden change in your child's behavior could be an early warning sign of stress. Some of the most common behavioral cues indicating stress include anxiety, disappointment, argumentative behavior, anger, and guilt.
- Physical: When a child feels stressed he/she may often complain of physical ailments such as headaches, abdominal pain, and fatigue. A younger kid or toddler may show other symptoms such as bed-wetting or difficulty in sleeping.
How You Can Help:
The first thing you can do to help your child cope with stress is to try to understand the pressure they are going through. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine what life is like. Even if their worries seem trivial to you, you need to show some empathy. Other methods you can try are:
Be a role model:
Your child models his/her behavior and coping mechanisms after you. It is therefore vital that you learn and practice healthy stress management techniques at home. Teach your child directly by sharing examples of how you dealt with stressful situations, explaining how you handled stress. Acknowledge your mistakes and explain how you learned from them.Your examples should help to show that, as bad as things may seem, stressful situations are not permanent and can always be dealt with.
Teach problem-solving skills
Help your child view stress as a problem-solving activity. Show them how to express their feelings and brainstorm possible solutions. After successfully handling stressful situations, they will feel a sense of victory and increased self-confidence.
Show your child that sometimes it is necessary to make choices and prioritize. Just as an overbooked schedule gets the better of you, having too much to do and no personal time can be bad for them too.
Sit down with your child and help him/her narrow down the activities that are most important. Help them to determine activities that are less gratifying and deserve elimination from their schedule.
Keep in mind that not all children can handle the same amount of school and extracurricular activities. Even when one of your children may play soccer, take swimming lessons and volunteer actively, the other child may not be able to handle the same.
Encourage your children to talk everyday
Give your children the opportunity to talk without judging them. Be prepared to listen at all hours. And don't give up if they withdraw. The one day you don't talk to your children may be the one day they need your support the most.
Listen to the way your child describes stressful situations. It may be necessary to help put exaggerated worries into perspective.
Children often think in terms of immediate effects. Teach your children to look at the bigger picture and the long-range consequences of their decisions.
Make sure your child's needs are met
Help reduce your child's stress levels by getting him/her into the habit of making healthy food choices. Children are less vulnerable to stress when they eat healthy, get plenty of rest, and exercise regularly.
When your child is in a slump and seems emotionally withdrawn, encourage him/her to use direct coping techniques. Urge your child to develop friendships and work toward goals.
Encourage your child to actively deal with stressful events through physical activity and relaxation. Teach him/her to meditate, use breathing exercises, and enjoy the occasional solitude.
Talk to others
If you think your child is facing difficulty in managing stress, it may help to talk to teachers, a therapist, your doctor, or other parents.
One of the most effective ways for making your child resilient is by showing that your love is not dependent on their success and failure. Children who know they are unconditionally loved and valued find it easier to bounce back when faced with troublesome situations.