Stress may be a response to a negative change in a child’s life. In small amounts, stress can be good. But, excessive stress can affect the way a child thinks, acts, and feels. Children learn how to respond to stress as they grow and develop. Many stressful events that an adult can manage will cause stress in a child. As a result, even small changes can impact a child’s feelings of safety and security. Pain, injury, illness, and other changes are stressors for children.
Here are some facts:
- Stress causes children to get lower grades than they think they can get.
- Balancing all their activities causes stress
- Children neglect home responsibilities due to stress.
- They’re irritable due to stress.
- Stress causes children to feel overwhelmed.
- Children feel tired because of stress.
- They feel sad or depressed because of stress.
Signs Your Child May Be Stressed
As a parent, you are in the position to be able to observe changes in your children that something may be wrong. Children may not recognize that they are stressed. New or worsening symptoms may lead parents to suspect an increased stress level is present. Some of the physical symptoms that can suggest stress in your child include:
- Decreased appetite, or other changes in eating habits.
- New or recurrent bedwetting.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Upset stomach or vague stomach pain.
- Other physical symptoms with no physical illness.
You may also notice some emotional or behavioral changes in your child. These can constitute part of the manifestation of stress in your child. The major ones include:
- Anxiety, worry.
- Not able to relax.
- New or recurring fears (fear of the dark, fear of being alone, fear of strangers).
- Clinging, unwilling to let you out of sight.
- Anger, crying, whining.
- Not able to control emotions.
- Aggressive or stubborn behavior.
- Going back to behaviors present at a younger age.
- Doesn’t want to participate in family or school activities.
What Causes Stress in Kids
Generally, stress is a function of the demands placed on us and our ability to meet them. These demands often come from outside sources, such as family, jobs, friends, or school. But it also can come from within, often related to what we think we should be doing versus what we’re actually able to do. So stress can affect anyone who feels overwhelmed even kids. In preschoolers, separation from parents can cause anxiety. As kids get older, academic and social pressures (especially from trying to fit in) create stress.
Many kids are too busy to have time to play creatively or relax after school. Kids who complain about all their activities or who refuse to go to them might be over-scheduled. It is therefore very important that you talk with your kids on how they feel about extracurricular activities. If they complain, discuss the pros and cons of stopping one activity. If stopping isn’t an option, explore ways to help manage your child’s time and responsibilities to lessen the anxiety.
Do your kids hear you talking about troubles at work, worrying about a relative’s illness, or arguing with your spouse about financial matters? As a parent, you should watch how you discuss such issues when your kids are near because children easily pick up on their parents’ anxieties and start to worry themselves.
World news can also cause stress. Kids who see disturbing images on TV or hear talk of natural disasters, war, and terrorism may worry about their own safety and that of the people they love. Talk to your kids about what they see and hear, and monitor what they watch on TV so that you can help them understand what’s going on.
Tips to Help Manage Stress in Your Kids
Adults have their own tricks for managing stress, but your kids have yet to develop the habits and discover the activities that can help reduce their worries. Put their health and development on the right track by giving them a helping hand. These following tips will get you started.
Talk with Your Kids
One of the steps you can take as a parent to help your kids deal with stress effectively is talking with them about their worries. For example, If you discover they’re worried about money, you can talk through your finances with them. You can even help them set up their own bank account and budget so they feel more in control. In addition, talking to your kids shows them it’s okay to approach you about their worries so they don’t have to face them alone.
Play with Your Kids
Many children don’t get the time to play which can help reduce stress in kids. A lot of kids go to school and engage in academic work with little time foe recess, and when they come back home, they made to continue reading their books, do assignments and engage in chores at home. All these activities are very important, but as a parent, learn to balance it by giving room of play time for your kids. this can help them reduce accumulated stress. Don’t just buy them video games or give then TV time, allow them to get involved in physical play with their peers, and or with you.
The greatest way to increase resilience in kids is to stay connected with them. Make sure you have time every day when you put your phones and your devices away, and you’re talking to your kids and your kids are talking to you.
Take it easy
Families are always running from one thing to another. Make sure your kids get regular, unstructured time at home when they can play, rest, read, or do whatever they feel like doing. It’s space where they can pick and choose, and it’s soothing, fun, and stress free. All kids need breaks.
Have a routine
Stick to healthy routines, like good nutrition and regular bedtimes. Ask your pediatrician for guidance or a referral for counseling if your child’s stress seems to be persistent and overwhelming.
Take care of you
Get yourself in check emotionally before you take care of your kids. When you ease your own stress, you boost your connection to your children.
- American Academy of Pediatrics – Helping children handle stress.
- American Psychological Association website. Identifying signs of stress in your children and teens.
- The American Journal of Family Therapy – Homework and family stress
- National Association for the Education of Young Children – Recess: It’s Indispensable!