1. Yes, Kids Experience Stress Too
Adults sometimes have the
misconception (or the not-altogether-accurate memory) of childhood as
one long parade of cotton candy and carousel rides. Perhaps it is the
comparison with our adult lives that makes childhood seem so carefree.
Yet, children today are falling victim to the negative effects of stress
in greater numbers than ever before.
“Kids today need stress management just as much as their parents.”
2. What Causes Stress in Kids?
The causes of stress in children
tend to be primarily environmental (family, friends, school) until
puberty sets in and adds those troublesome hormones into the mix.
Stress in children has
been recognized and diagnosed only recently. Many children report having
to deal with violence, peer pressure, underage drinking, drug use, and
pressure to have sex, not to mention pressure to get good grades, be
involved in back-to-back extracurricular activities, have a social life,
and keep all the adults in their lives pacified. Kids today need stress
management just as much as their parents.
3. Don’t Forget about Young Kids
Even young kids can experience
stress. They, too, are sometimes faced with difficult family situations
and peer interactions, some of which may not seem difficult to adults
but which can cause profound stress reactions in children.
Childhood experiences can
impact the individual long after childhood. The key to giving young
children the future tools for handling stress is to provide a
supportive, loving, nurturing environment. If you do so, you may be
helping your child form the neural pathways necessary for healthy stress
4. Teach Kids Stress Management Skills
Kids who understand stress
management will be empowered to manage their own stress throughout their
lives. The first step to teaching kids about stress management is to be
tuned in to the stress your kids are feeling. You may not always know
all the details of the causes of stress for your kids, but if you live
with your children and pay attention, you can probably tell when your
child’s equilibrium is disturbed.
5. Look Out for the Signs
Signs of stress in children are
similar to signs of stress in adults. Suspect your child is suffering
from stress if you notice any of the following:
• Sudden change in appetite that seems unrelated to growth
• Sudden weight loss or gain
• Development of an eating disorder
• Sudden change in sleep habits
• Chronic fatigue
• Sudden drop in grades
• Sudden change in exercise habits (much more or stopping completely)
• Withdrawal, sudden refusal to communicate
• Signs of anxiety, panic
• Frequent headaches and/or stomach aches
• Frequent frustration
• Loss of interest in activities
• Compulsion to overschedule
• Suddenly quitting many activities
6. Soothe Infant Stress
Make a commitment to set aside
several fifteen-minute sessions each day during which you devote your
full and total attention to your infant. Make eye contact, talk to her,
play with her, and don’t do anything else; turn off the television, the
radio, put away the newspaper, and stop cleaning. Make it all about
baby. He’ll soon learn he is important and worth your attention. Try a
daily infant massage.
Gently and softly stroke your
baby’s legs, arms, and body to improve circulation and relax muscles.
Talk softly and sweetly to your baby as you massage her, sing to her,
and make eye contact.
7. Pay Attention to Your Toddler
For toddlers, life is a big
exciting adventure. Pay attention to your toddler’s reaction to the
world. Instead of forcing him to do something that makes him nervous,
notice that he is nervous and take it slow or put off the activity until
later. Some toddlers are always ready to jump into new activities.
Others require more time to consider new activities before trying them.
Respect your child’s individual style. He’ll learn that it’s okay to be
the way he is. He’ll be less likely, later in life, to blame himself for
his stress, and he’ll be more likely to understand how to approach new