By Karen Vaughn, MEd, LPC, CEAP, SAP
In this busy world of ours, there is always something to do and always something to prove. As adults, we sometimes don't take into consideration the stress that our young children may be experiencing. Sure, childhood is a time in life when you should be carefree and have no worries, but you were a child once and you know that is not the case.
Just like adults, children experience stress too. It is important that parents understand that and have knowledge of how to help their child cope with their stress in a healthy way -- not only by being a good role models but also by providing coping skills for the child.
Stress for children can come from major life changes such as divorce or the death of a close family member, but it can be from minor daily stressors such as meeting expectations of parents, teachers and coaches, making and keeping friends or meeting their own expectations. The inner pressures that kids place on themselves can become overwhelming.
According to a poll conducted by kidshealth.org, kids said that they were stressed out the most by: grades, school and homework (36%); family (32%); and friends, peers, gossip and teasing (21%).
These are the coping strategies kids said they use the most (they could give more than one response):
- 52% play or do something active
- 44% listen to music
- 42% watch TV or play a video game
- 30% talk to a friend
- 29% try not to think about it
- 28% try to work things out
- 26% eat something
- 23% lose their temper
- 22% talk to a parent
- 11% cry
Stress can manifest itself in many different ways but for children it usually comes in behavior changes. Some changes to look for include acting irritable or moody, complaining more, crying, being noncompliant and changes in sleep and eating patterns. Stress can also present in physical symptoms such as stomachaches or headaches. Be aware if complaints appear more during certain situations like before a test or before a big game.
It’s important for children to learn how to manage their stress because if not they will fall into the same space as adults who do not know how to manage their stress. They will start to look for ways to make themselves feel better and in most cases it will not be healthy -- like food, drugs and alcohol.
Here are some things you can do as a parent to help your child:
- Teaching problem solving skills
- Teaching your child how to say no to activities
- Schedule down time and play time
- Prepare your child to deal with mistakes and disappointments.
If you are interested in learning more about helping your children manage their stress, please contact BJC EAP.