Adults can sometimes be too occupied with their own stress to notice that their child is stressed out. And kids often lack the self-awareness and knowledge to understand that there’s a name for what their feeling. But the truth is that kids can experience stress just as adults do. For young children, separation anxiety, going to school for the first time, and changes within the family dynamic can cause them stress. Among older children, school demands, social pressures, and power struggles with parents are among the stressful experiences they face.
In young children with underdeveloped communication skills, stress can manifest itself in physical, flu-like symptoms, like tummy aches, head aches, and nausea. They may also regress to behaviors like bed wetting, crying, and being overly attached to a parent. Acting out and being overly active, as well as acting more sedate than normal are also signs of stress in a young child. In an older child, such as a teen, grades going down, retreating to the bedroom more often, and even getting a new group of friends suddenly can be signs of stress.
While the way children express stress may differ from adults, the effect on their well-being is just as significant. From a suppressed immune system, to memory and concentration problems, stress can have a lasting impact on a child. Try these techniques for dealing with stress in kids:
Healthy diet and exercise: Add more fruits and veggies to his diet, offer him healthy snacks during the day, and don’t allow him to skip meals. This will help to strengthen his overburdened immune system and help to prevent him from getting sick. Also, make sure he participates in some physical activity daily – a major way to reduce stress. Perhaps suggest a long walk where he may also feel more inclined to open up about his feelings.
Keep it consistent: If bed time is 9 pm, make sure you enforce this rule. If dinner is usually on the table by 6, aim to keep it that way. Consistency in the world around them is a great comfort to children.
Affection: A simple hug or a gentle massage can be just what your child needs to unwind and release the tension he’s been bottling up inside.
Talk about their problems: Allow your child to tell you what’s stressing him out. Don’t criticize him, and don’t offer advice unless asked. Show that you’re interested and paying attention by asking questions. If appropriate, share a similar story from your childhood to show how you managed to fix a problem – or not. Explain that everyone makes mistakes, including you.
Teach them stress-relieving games: Playing solitaire, doing a crossword puzzle, or even squeezing a stress ball can help your child to relax.
How do you recognize stress symptoms in your children and help them to cope? Share your tips with us below.
Sources: cdc.gov and stressmanagementtips.com