Stress can affect us all- even our youngest children! Here are some strategies to minimize childhood stress at home and at school.
Can a little bit of childhood stress be helpful?
Stress affects the little ones in the same way as it does adults. The body adjusts accordingly to cope with the stressful situation. Therefore, a certain amount of stress can be productive. So the pressure of a deadline can help you pull the necessary all-nighter to complete the huge project you’ve been procrastinating for weeks.
Preparation for a test or final examination can also cause childhood stress. This is completely normal and short-lived, as the pressure subsides after the presentation or the test.
However, stress in children over prolonged periods of time can have serious consequences. Over 30 percent of Americans have experienced an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, as the National Insitute of Mental Health reports. Why? Excessive stress.
Symptoms of stress in children and adolescents
Sometimes stress, excessive anxiety, or a mental illness could appear as early as childhood. However, as the 2015 Child Mind Institute Children’s Mental Health Report reveals, millions of children are not treated properly. Some parents and practitioners don’t always recognize the symptoms.
Signs of childhood stress can be
- aggressive behavior
Depending on the type of condition, a child might be prone to withdraw from others or seem listless. If your child has a permanent loss of appetite or a disrupted sleep rhythm, they might be feeling too much stress or pressure. Psychosomatic symptoms such as abdominal pain, headaches or nausea are also signs of stress.
Childhood stress factor: parents
Parents have an important role in helping to take pressure off of their children. It’s wonderful to have high standards and to give children goals they can aspire to. But it’s also crucial to keep your expectations realistic. It’s all about balance.
Encourage your child to do their best in school, but reassure them that their value does not come from academic achievements. Make sure your child knows it’s okay to get less-than-perfect grades.
But don’t let fear of stressing out your child prevent you from giving them goals and expectations! Healthy boundaries, responsibilities, and realistic standards can help reduce stress since it gives them structure and something to aim for.
Remember- every person has strengths and weaknesses. Your daughter may have a great ear for languages but struggles with science. Encourage her natural giftedness with languages, but reassure her if she’s frustrated when she can’t quickly understand difficult concepts in biology or physics.
Also, your children might have very different skills, and that’s okay. Be sure you don’t compare them to each other, or cause them to compete against one another!
How to help your child with stress
If your child seems over-stressed, it’s important to take action as soon as possible. Good communication is a crucial component of parenting, so talk with your child about some of their fears and frustrations. Address their or their workload, including extracurricular activities and household duties. Work together to see how you can streamline the schedule.
Have a conversation with the teacher or ask your pediatrician to help you to assess the situation correctly. Is this just typical stress everyone encounters, or is there a deeper issue??
If you think your child might be experiencing more than typical stresses, be sure to seek help from a trained medical professional. Beyond health implications, stress and anxiety can negatively affect school performance. This, in turn, creates new pressure – a vicious circle that must be broken.
Recharge over the weekend
It’s important that your child has time to relax and play after school and over the weekend. A lot of exercise in the fresh air is the perfect balance to a long school day. Good physical health can help to reduce stress, so make sure your child is eating a healthy diet and getting sufficient sleep. Participating in sports activities and getting regular exercise help, too! So let your child sleep in and relax on the weekend. Regular time off from kindergarten or school can be so helpful- take a family holiday if possible.
Family togetherness can combat stress
Make sure you spend quality time together as a family. Children can feed off their parents’ stress, so if you’re uptight, your child might feel the pressure, too. Fortunately, however, relaxed parents often have more relaxed children.
So relax regularly together. Reading books to your children or experiencing a dream vacation together is great. But simply cuddling with them, without looking at the watch or smartphone helps your child relieve stress.
Other techniques that let us adults relax might also work for children. In many cities, for example, there are offers for special parent-child yoga. Baby massages are a great way for the very young to relax. Fixed daily schedules also help stressed families, because they help to frame up your day.
Stress-free ways to support your child
Nevertheless, you can help your children to develop good learning techniques. Help them organize homework, projects or presentations so they can reduce stress at school.
Good time management is a fantastic life skill! Practice it with your child so they don’t fall into the procrastination trap.
Consistency also helps. Whether your child needs to learn vocabulary or practice his instrument, 30 minutes a day is better than learning for hours once a week. This also applies to test preparation. If you regularly check your school documents, you’ll be better off in the material and can’t be surprised by unannounced tests. All this also helps to avoid stress in children.
What helpful stress-reducing tips work well for your family? Let us know in the comments, or share ideas on FamilyApp!