Identifying signs of stress in your kids
In case you’ve wondered – adults aren’t the only group of people experiencing stress. Contrary to the popular belief, stress is very common among children too, especially younger teenagers. Unfortunately, most stress signs our children express are often mistaken for rebellious and reckless behavior, when they’re actually a cry for help.
To ensure your child stays emotionally and psychologically stable, tuning into their emotional or behavioral cues is crucial. Once identified, potential problems will be easier to address and solve, and therefore, help you approach your child in a healthy way, offer guidance and support to successfully work through difficult times.
In this article, we’ll tackle upon ways to recognize possible signs of stress and offer potential solutions on how to fix them.
Observe their behavior
Younger children don’t actually have the ability to recognize and verbalize all emotions they’re feeling, stress in particular. This is why they’ll act out and adopt some negative behaviors that may turn into problematic outbursts.
Common changes can include acting moody or irritable, routinely expressing worries, withdrawing from activities that used to give them pleasure, complaining more than usual about school, displaying surprising fearful reactions, clinging to a parent or teacher, sleeping and/or eating disorders and crying for no apparent reason.
While negative behaviors aren’t necessarily indicators of excessive stress, negative changes in behavior are definite signals that something is wrong.
Watch for their interaction with others
Sometimes, a child won’t express any changes in behavior while at home but they’ll be acting out in communication with other children. To be aware of these changes, parents should network and exchange experiences and observations about their children’s behaviors. This includes being in contact with teachers, school administrators and leaders of extracurricular activities.
Understand that “feeling sick” may be caused by stress
Just as in adults, stress may manifest through physical symptoms with kids, too. Often, they’ll experience splitting headaches or stomach aches as a manifestation of stress they are feeling, so watch for signs. If a child is complaining about these symptoms prior to some big event (e.g. a school performance, test, big game, etc.), that child may be experiencing significant stress.
Listen and translate
Children aren’t familiar with most words adults use to define their emotions, so even when they’re looking to communicate that they’ve been under a lot of stress, they are likely to use words close to their vocabulary − “angry”, “annoyed”, “worried”, “confused”, “scared”, etc. Teenagers will be prone to either putting themselves down or talking negative things about world around them (e.g. “No one likes me,” “I’m stupid,” “Nothing is fun.”).
Ways parents can help
Empowering your kids to cope effectively with stress means being very understanding of the vulnerable state they are in.
Be honest and open
If you’ve noticed the change in their behavior, talk to them calmly and patiently. Don’t attack them or punish them for acting out. Be their friend first, and make them realize you’re not the enemy. Ask them what’s been bothering them, and then work with them on finding a solution. Offer support and ultimately – a way out.
Be emotionally supportive
Some kids are more sensitive than the others, and you need to work with your child’s sensibility. When they come to you with a crisis, find the time in your busy schedule to listen to their problem. Express genuine empathy for their emotional dilemmas and talk to them by drawing on your own experience. Realizing they are not alone, they may find it easier to solve the problem.
Help them sleep better
If stress is messing with their sleep, children may have requirements like leaving the lights on, sleeping with the door open, having you read to them prior to bedtime (or the opposite), etc. Go with their wishes until they overcome the problem. Also, have them either sleep with open windows or put a humidifier on their nightstand as the fresh air helps one fall asleep quicker and rest well.
Include stress-relief activities in their daily routine
Sign your kid up for a sport they love and watch them de-stress quicker than you’ve thought possible. Especially at an early age, sport is known to build character, stability and focus as well as keep children mentally healthy.
***This is a Guest post from Zara Lewis***