Children are also affected by stress, like adults. Pressure from schoolwork, family, friends and peers can lead to stress. Family disruptions like transferring to a new home or school, change of routines, or even pressure from their parents can contribute to the stress children are experiencing.
Like adults, long-term stress may lead to emotional, behavioural, mental or physical problems in children. Parents, caregivers and teachers should know the signs of stress, intervene and help children manage stress before it becomes severe. Stress can cause anxiety, depression and behavioural problems among children.
Sources of Stress
Tension in the home is a prevalent source of stress for children. When parents fight or become separated children are greatly affected. This stress can translate to unusual behaviours such as constant crying, tantrums or even shyness. Parents must be aware of this behaviours and intervene at the earliest time.
For growing kids, a school can also be a source of stress. Academic work like assignment, test and other school work may overwhelm children, and some might exhibit behaviours such as absenteeism, headaches, and even bullying.
In school, children learn to make new friends and interact with other students. Sadly, this interaction can sometimes lead to stress, especially if they become victims of bullying or if they have a misunderstanding with their school friends or classmates.
Parents and adults have a big responsibility to help children cope and deal with stress. But we must also accept that we cannot altogether remove stress from children. Overprotecting our children from hardships and anxiety may not even be beneficial to them when they become adults.
Stress is inevitable and is part of life; it teaches children how to be resilient and adapt to the situation. Resilience is an important skill when they eventually become adults and want to succeed in life.
Signs of Stress in Children
It’s vital to identify the early signs of childhood stress. It can show up in different ways, such as changes in behaviour. When kids used to be happy and full of life suddenly becomes silent and stays alone in their room, then it can be a sign of stress.
Changes in eating habits is also a sign of stress; eating too little or too much food can be a stress reaction. Parents should be aware of their children sleeping habits and watch for changes in their sleep pattern. If they complain that they are always tired, you should find out if they had enough sleep. Sleeping more than usual or children who have difficulty sleeping is often a sign of stress.
Here are some tips that can help children manage stress.
- Sleeping well is one of the simplest and easiest ways to deal with stress. Young children age 6-12 years old need at least nine to twelve hours of sleep. On the other hand, teens need to have at least eight to ten hours of sleep. Sleeping energizes the body and lets it recover from a day of activities.
- Exercise can be a great activity to relieve stress for children. They can join their school’s sports team or play with their friends in the yard or park. A few hours of playing can significantly reduce stress.
- Finding a hobby that children enjoy can help them reduce stress. It can be creating art, drawing, reading, board games, playing musical instruments or even collecting different objects. Hobbies break the monotony of school work and will help lessen stress. It can also develop other skills in art or music.
- Talking and being open about stressful situations. Encourage children to talk about the things and situations that bring them stress. By doing so, they will be able to identify them and find possible solutions to lessen the stress. Having open communication will allow parents and teachers to suggest solutions to help them cope with stressful situations.