You are noticing some changes in your child. A few days back your kid was laughing and was normal but, since few days he/she is crabby and irritating. Your child is doing great in the school, his/her extra-curricular activities are going fine along but despite that, your kid is having a hard time sleeping at night. Is your kid going through a stressful Like adults, kids do struggle with stress.
Signs of stress in children and teens:
While it is not easy to recognize the signs of stress among kids, there are some behavioral changes and some physical changes which could be witnessed. You can learn about the stress among children by identifying the signs and symptoms and help your child overcome the stress challenges.
Behavioral and emotional stress signs include:
• Whining, crying, and aggressiveness
• Not able to control emotions
• Anxiety and worrying
• Stubborn behavior
• Refusal to go to school
• Various types of fear (being alone, darkness)
• Difficulty in concentrating
• Withdrawing from friends or family
• Mood swings
Physical signs among children include:
• Increased or decreased appetite
• Sleep problems
• Stomach Aches & headaches
Below are some signs which could help you identify whether your kid is going through a stressful situation or no.
Understand that “feeling sick” may be caused by stress:
Stress can develop and can be seen through physical symptoms which include headaches, stomach-ache, – often giving your child “not feeling well” kind of condition. Frequent complaints suggest a clear indication that there is something wrong. If certain symptoms prevail, your kid might need help on how to manage stress.
Be aware of how your child or teen interacts with others:
Stress in kids makes them behave in unusual ways. They socialize less and remain aloof. Your child will express their feelings of distress in various ways. If you are noticing some kind of odd behavior where you feel your child is not feeling “normal” try to communicate with him/her. Communicating with their teachers and friends will help you tap in your child’s thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. Hence, find out what is bothering, and developing anxiety in kids.
Listen and translate:
Don’t ignore your child when he/she comes to you to talk something. If you are noticing something unusual, ask your child if anything is bothering him/her. Listen attentively with patience and interest. Avoid blaming or scolding – the idea is to let your child speak so that you can understand and translate the situation better and come up with a solution for the anxiety developing in your kid.
How to help kids manage stress:
1. Stop overscheduling:
The pressure to perform is increasing whether it is studies or extra-curricular activities. There’s no downtime to it. Understand it is not a race; your kid needs time to rejuvenate. Your child’s body and brain require rest time as your child is already over-burdened with millions of things. This is an indication that your kid’s plate is full and it’s time you empty the plate before it’s too late.
2. Make time to play:
With the advent of gadgets and video games, there are lesser kids who are seen playing outdoors. Combine physical activity with the play which is crucial for your kid’s well-being for e.g. hiking, riding a bicycle etc.
3. Make sleep a priority:
Your child should have an adequate amount of sleep. It is a stress buster for your kids and also it ensures your child to stay in a good mood. Reducing some amount of commitments can help your sleep-deprived child to cope up with stressful problems.
4. Teach your kids to listen to their bodies:
Teach your kid to listen to their body what it is trying to say through the behavioral and physical signs. Make them understand that the body gets tired; it needs healthy food and adequate sleep. For e.g., if your child is feeling excited at the start of the day when going to school but comes back with complaints of stomach ache or headache or there’s an emotional drain – this is a clear sign that there’s so much going on.
5. Prepare your kids to deal with mistakes:
Make your kids understand that it is okay to do mistakes and learn from them. Running is never going to help. For kids, the primary reason for developing stress is because they fear to make mistakes. Explain your kids about how they are not supposed to do everything right and perfect. Help your kids to learn and figure out the next step on how to make amends, and improve when they had made mistakes. Encourage them to learn from their mistakes.
6. Make mornings calmer:
A cluttered home can be a stressful environment for your kid. Your child needs a relaxed, peaceful environment especially when they are dealing with different kinds of stress. Anxiety in children is often witnessed during morning hours, so make their morning blissful. This will help them kickstart their mornings in a better way.
7. Encourage your child to face his/her fears, not run away from them:
It’s human psychology; what we fear we avoid doing. However, this might result in provoking situations that build anxiety. Your child might be facing some kind of fear which is developing into some kind of anxiety. Instead, teach your children to face their fears. It is crucial to appreciate your kid’s efforts and hard work but, it is equally important to embrace your kid’s imperfections and mistakes and let them learn from the same.
8. Start a dialogue about the stress:
If you are noticing stressful symptoms in your kid, rather changing your behavior into an interrogating mode try asking one or two basic questions and see where they are leading. For e.g. asking how was his/her day and ask curious questions to dig out more information which let you know the root cause and will give chance to work on reducing your kid’s stress levels.
9. Simplify your schedule:
It is good to follow a timetable, and have a disciplined life. But, there is a pressure to remain “constant” to adhere to that schedule. It will put a lot of stress on everyone, especially on kids to behave in a certain way, to work in a certain manner and so on. Cut down 1 or 2 activities won’t make much of difference. Simplifying it will let them have some freedom and utilize that downtime in their favorite activity.
10. Model healthy coping strategies
Children learn from us. They watch our behaviors especially when we are stressed out how well we are coping. You need to model healthy coping strategies, for e.g. when you had a busy day and handling multiple things at a time, we do get stressed out. We find out our relaxation in a cup of tea, or reading a book or solving a crossword puzzle in the newspaper. Your child doesn’t have that kind of ideas of how to vent out the strain.
The tips on stress management for kids suggests teaching your child to relax by letting them practice some relaxation methods which are as simple as reading a book, going out to play, paint etc.
If a parent is still noticing stress-related symptoms in their kids which are significant enough on a regular basis and are not included in the above list, seek help from an expert child psychologist to identify the problems and develop effective strategies to manage stress for kids.