Stress in kids: What you need to know 

Is your child feeling stressed lately? Stress is a normal emotion in life and every human experience it throughout their life. As the world continues to get more and more competitive, there is a pressing need to train kids to manage their stress and parents have a huge and important role in it. 

Child stress, like the stress experienced by adults, is usually a consequence of several factors. Some stress is okay as it gives urges and motivates the child to perform a specific activity. But too much stress can be overwhelming and have negative effects on the child’s mindset. 

The most basic way to reduce stress is taking time to understand the cause and signs of stress and identify the triggers that make you stress and how parents can help the kid cope up with their stress on their own through activities, stress-relieving toys and stress eliminating activities. 

Why is stress management for kids important? 

Stress is one of the emotions that everyone faces in their life. The difference lies over how you can handle the stressful situation. It is observed that young kids can observe and notice tension in the environment. Stress affects a person’s mental well-being and overall perspective or outlook on a situation. 

  • Some stress can be viewed to be positive, but if the stress is more than a particular limit, it can hurt the mindset of the child. 
  • Continued stress can have a long-term effect on the child. This can lead to critical illness or isolation from loved ones. It can make your children quiet and reserved, which can be harmful to their development. 
  • Toxic stress is a result of experiences of strong, frequent, or prolonged adversity or exposure to violence which can create long-lasting difficulties for the child. 
  • Prolonged stress elevates cortisol levels in the brain. The more severe the stress, the longer are the cortisol chemicals present in the brain which not only affects the mind but also the body. 
  • For developing the brain at a very young age, these chemicals in the brain can have adverse effects, hindering their overall growth and development, impacting their memory and emotions. 

Is my child stressed? 

If you are stressed, your mind and body will probably identify. Your kid might notice that when they are stressed, their heartbeat rate increases, muscles tensing, and faster breathing. Sometimes your child might notice adrenaline rush in a particular situation that can trigger stress.

 Your kids are still understanding how to react and respond to the environment, hence they would not be able to articulate their feelings of stress and anxiety. If your child is experiencing a major shift in their environment in some way or the other, you should look out for possible signs of stress and monitor over how your child is coping up with the situation. 

  • Not feeling well and falling sick constantly 
  • Having trouble sleeping with ease
  • Sudden change in their behavior 
  • Mood swings and avoiding meals regularly 
  • Reduced social interactions and staying isolated
  • Difficulty with concentration and not getting involved in activities. 
  • Frequent complaints of stomachache and headaches. 
  • Experiencing frequent nightmares 
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Increase in crying and tantrums 
  • Zoning out constantly 

These signs may be the symptoms but are not absolute. It is difficult to pinpoint the factor of stress as it may be from various sources or not just one.

 Keep track of his behavior and reactions in different situations and evaluate the same at different times. The signs if toddler stress varies with each individual. Parents need to constantly look out for unusual and suspect weird behaviors and actions. Changes in normal behavior are generally the primary and significant indicators of behavior change. 

If the child’s behavior worsens, it can be a sign of something more serious. 

Why is the child getting stressed? – Reasons for toddler stress

Separation Anxiety 

For most of the young kids, caregivers or parents are their comfort zones and source of main protection against threats. It creates a sense of protectiveness that keeps the child closeby. When the child is separated from the parent or the caregiver for a longer time, it is natural for toddlers to feel anxious. It usually happens when the toddler starts going to preschool or spends more time with new people. This anxiety is good as it helps the kids to open up. But it can lead to increased clinginess and nervousness for some of the kids who are not able to adapt to the new change. 

Big family changes

Major family changes such as divorce, death, and a new home can stress toddlers. The heightened emotions while the toddlers learn to express emotions can put a toll on the toddler’s mental health. The combination of heavy emotions disrupted schedules, and tension in the family can expose the kid to tension and stress. Even positive changes can be stressful. Change equals stress as the toddler needs to adapt itself to different ways of life.   

Overwhelming schedules 

Children live in the present and act according to their current emotions. They need time to enjoy some time exploring and experiencing the world around them, so overscheduling with activities in the day can leave them exhausted and stressed. Kids need more time to play and enjoy. If the schedule disregards a child’s’ natural rhythm, they feel more stressed. 

Some other causes of stress in kids can be ineffective parenting, parents having high expectations from their kids, teaching children skills, and exposing them to activity that does not sync with the age. 

What parents can do to help their kids with stress?

Understand the root cause of the problem 

Stress management for kids

The first step is to understand the reason why your child feels stressed. One way is to observe them daily and understand their actions and reaction to a particular situation. You can also talk and try to understand what is making the kid stressed.knowing the cause of stress is the first step to help your child cope up with the stress. Identifying the problem with effective communication and observation can help the parents or the caregivers understand the problem. 

Check over the schedule and reevaluate 

Most of the time, the schedule impacts the child’s mental health and affects the way the kids interact and act. Including diverse activities in the schedule helps the kids but over-scheduling drains them out and reduces their stamina and urge to participate. Make sure that the kid has enough time to play and enjoy, maintaining a balance of learning and rest. 

Encourage your child to face the fears, not run away from them.

When we are afraid of any kind of situation, we try to avoid them. This instinct is natural for any human, including toddlers. Avoidance of anxiety and stress stimulating situation elevates anxiety rather than reducing it. Facing difficult situations with courage reduces stress after certain period. If you try to avoid or let the stress take over your mind, that is when the stress prevails for a longer time. The only way to reduce stress is to face it. 

Look over at the bright side 

Many times, kids lose out on the comments and negativity from their environment. It is easy for the kids to get influenced and get affected by the opinions of others and peers. They may not be able to look at the positive side of the situation as it is very rare that people around look over at the good aspects of the situation.

It is important to build an optimistic mindset in your child that does not get affected by the negativity from outside. The more child can focus on the bright side and the positive attributes of the situation, the better they would be able to focus. It not only makes you win and sustain in any situation but also have a happy mind. 

Change your approach towards behavior, self-care and positive thinking

It is a fact that your child learns from your action more than you think. If you avoid stressful situations rather than facing it, your child will also do so. If you face your fears, the child will also do so. If you create a positive outlook towards life and see the good aspects of any situation, your child will also learn to be optimistic. The child learns from their parent’s behavior. One of the best ways to teach your child to face stress is by facing the stress and coping it yourself. It will make the kid realize and understand how they can navigate through a stressful situation.

Encourage your child to speak up and express their anxiety

Anxiety and stress reduction when it is vented out. But this a tough part. Many adults themselves struggle to express their stress and anxiety, usually backed by the fear of getting judged by people and their opinions. Training your kid will not only help them to navigate the stress in a better way but also, helps them to be expressive. 

How can your child cope up?

Allow the kids to deal with their mistakes

It is important to provide the necessary support to your child, but also give him enough room to cope up with the situation on its own. The kids usually stress with the fear of making mistakes. Let them know it is okay to make mistakes but it is equally important to learn from the mistakes. Let them figure out the next step to rectify their mistakes, fix them, and make amends. 

Relaxation exercise 

Teach the kids some relaxation exercises and encourage them to do the same on an everyday basis. It will help them relax and introspect. Tell them to take slow breaths when they are stressed or furious or ask them to walk around and play for some time if they feel stressed and restless. 

Never giving up 

Stress and anxiety is a continuous and chronic struggle. It is something that keeps on challenging an individual mindset and skills. It is important to teach kids and make them implement stress-relieving techniques and strategies that help them to lower their stress and anxiety on their own and sustain in stress-provoking situations. 

Reference

kidshealth.org

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Written by Anu Chaudhary

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