It’s tempting for us to remember childhood as an idyllic time. Sometimes, we adults think that since children don’t have to worry about paying the bills, keeping a job, cleaning the house, and so forth, they can’t possibly have any problems.
We KNOW this is absolutely NOT TRUE! Pick up a paper or watch the news – bullying, school shootings, competition in almost aspect of their lives today. Children today are dealing with stressful situations we never even dreamed of when we were their age. And they need your help to deal with it.
Children do not have the coping mechanisms, born of experience and maturity, that adults do. This is why seemingly small things can be very upsetting to children. So be patient and learn to recognize your kids’ stress and help them cope. Here are some things to look for and some tips on helping them deal with their stress.
Stressed children may exhibit physical symptoms, such as diarrhea, hives or rashes, restless sleep, changes in appetite and /or nausea.
Emotional Psychological Symptoms
A stressed child may exhibit depression, excessive sensitivity, or social withdrawal. Stressed kids may be aggressive or have angry outbursts. Does your child retreat into their room and stay in there for hours? Does he/she suddenly not want to attend school or other social events they usually go to with excitement? I don’t have to tell you that something is definitely wrong in your child’s life.
If you see these symptoms in your child, what can you do? It’s tempting to do nothing. Parents may think it will go away on its own, or that their child will outgrow it. But stress needs to be confronted and coped with so that it doesn’t become entrenched in your child’s thought and behavior patterns. Here are some things you can do.
Really listen. You may ask your stressed child what’s wrong, or why he/she is acting a certain way, and you may not get an answer. Or you get an answer like “Nothing.” But really listening means paying attention to your child’s words and body language even when they don’t know you’re watching. Certainly asking your child what’s wrong is a good thing to do; it shows you care.
But don’t interrogate them, or expect your child to be able to verbalize exactly what’s occurring in their life and how it’s affecting them. Even some adults have trouble with this. So try to “read” into the passing comments, complaints, and body language of your child.
If you express empathy, it shows your child that you do notice and understand. Verbally expressing empathy can also help your child build a vocabulary to explain their stressful feelings. You might say, “I bet it hurts your feelings when people call you names. It hurts mine, too,” and share an experience from your past.
Help Your Child Be Proactive
Work with your child in finding solutions to their stress. Sit down and make lists of things they could do, such as writing a letter to the stress-causing person or cutting back on some of their extra-curricular activities.
Let your child know that they do not have to be doing something 24 hours a day to have personal worth. They have worth because of who they are!
Seek out A Professional
Don’t hesitate to get help if you need to. Not everyone is qualified to deal with clinical medical problems like depression and, obviously, this is NOT something you want to ignore. Sometimes, a child finds it easier to open up to a medical professional before they would to their parents.