There is no doubt that today we live in more stressful times than ever before. Children of today are getting more lonely and isolated from the real world due to the intervention of technology. This causes them to experience stress unusually at a very early age.
Stress in children is the mental response to an external cause, such as having an illness, a lot of homework, or lack of attention and love.
After the occasional surveys by The American Psychological Association (APA), it was found that since 2013, in American Public, teens have reported being at a much higher risk of stress than most adults.
Why are children more stressed than ever?
To be a good parent, a responsible guardian, or even a trustworthy elder sibling, it is important to first understand the reasons for stress in children. And only that we should either help them ourselves or ask a professional. Following are some of the main reasons for increased stress in children:
- Lack of social connection
- Bullying at school, playground
- Increasing school workload and exams pressure
- Addiction to mobile phones and lack of physical activities
- Parents’ inability to understand children’s feelings
- Parents neglectful behavior to children’s needs due to busy lives
- Parents’ conflicts in family relationship
- Not getting enough sleep
- Social media makes children feel judged or bad about themselves
- Physical disabilities and lack of support
It is important to understand that the major difference we see in today’s life is highly developed technology. If we take only one aspect out of it i.e. social media, we realize that as teens engage more in virtual connection, they feel stressed in real-world scenarios. This then hinders the development of proper communication skills and results in an inability to communicate feelings through a safe channel.
Moreover, though many people believe that social media allows people to share more about their feelings, it also allows them to feel more judged by comparing their lives to others. This then results in feelings of envy, lack of self-worth, and feelings of insecurity developing in children and making them more stressed. All in all, children’s social media activity needs to be monitored without being too overly intrusive.
Signs of stress in children
Children undergoing stress exhibit some easily recognizable patterns of habits that can help parents identify teens’ conditions. Following are signs children show usually when they are under stress:
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much (normal routine is changed and more disturbed)
- Trouble communicating (children tend to become quieter than before)
- Emotional outbursts; rapid changes in emotional expressions (usually with exaggeration)
- Fatigue or loss of energy (the feeling to lie down and shut themselves up alone in the room)
- Loss of pleasure or interest in activities once enjoyed by the child (sports or other activities which require interaction with others )
- Loss of appetite or eating too much (again the aspect of the change and disturbance of normal routine)
- Poor concentration because mental health is disturbed (bad grades, poor performances in lessons)
- Restlessness (unease and nervousness)
- Loss of motivation (in simple activities like playing with siblings, going to school, etc.)
- Guilt or low self-esteem (usually happens when children experience bullying)
Why is stress management important?
Stress management is important because otherwise, it contains the risk of permanent physical and mental health damages. Prolonged stress can cause chronic depression and an increased risk of anxiety disorders. Also, children who suffer from stress from an early age, later on, perceive life in a very negative light and are most afraid of life’s challenges. Stress management is important because of the following reasons:
- Happier, healthier, and more creative life for children
- Control over strong emotions increases the self-esteem of children
- The positive outlook on life
Way to manage stress in children
Following are some of the ways parents can make children cope with stressful times.
- Making children feel they are not alone:
More often than not children become less talkative in stressful situations because they think there is something wrong with them that cannot be shared. The aspect of shame further worsens their condition. As a parent, you have to let them feel safe by constantly expressing your affection to them.
- Be patient and communicate:
Children not opening up to their parents’ inquiries often causes feelings of frustration and anger to develop in parents. Expressing these negative emotions to the children will make them feel more unsafe and block the channel of communication. It is the parents’ responsibility to be patient and wait for the child to properly process his feelings before he can fully express them.
- Take them outside
A change of place sometimes can be the best solution to the stressful times a child is facing. Being close to nature can be very peaceful and pleasing and may regulate positive emotions.
- Don’t push too hard
While recognizing the stress and offering help is the best way possible, parents also have to give children an opportunity to solve their diminutive problems themselves. Otherwise, their reliance on parents will increase significantly and they may not be able to learn the stress-inducing process of life.
- Help children improve sleeping habits
As talked about earlier, stress can cause children a lack of sleep or an unreasonable excess of sleep. Both of which are harmful to health. Parents need to keep a close eye on children’s sleeping patterns and deduce a proper system to help children feel more relaxed.
- Listen more, talk less
Sometimes the core issue takes quite a lot of talking before it is expressed. So continuous advice from parents may hinder the process of expression in children. Be there for them, listen to them, and after they have fully expressed should you offer advice.
- Engage in fun activities to initiate communication
This method of engaging in fun activities is used by many child psychologists who try to develop a strong, personal relationship with child clients. Start playing games with children like card games, marbles, dice games, etc. and in between the pauses, they will easily open up to talk.
- Practice exercises together
Playing simple physical games like passing the ball, Frisbee, short races, etc. will increase the child’s motivation to win. Winning will induce the feeling of accomplishment and in this way, the child will feel more confident in his skills and control of life.
Know when to consult a professional!
There are times when parents can do only so much to help their children’s stressful lives. If the symptoms become severe and chronic like insomnia, irrational binge eating, severe abdomen complications, or even mutism, then it is best to ask for professional help. There is a whole field of study dedicated to the mental health of children known as developmental phycology. A physiatrist’s approach will help understand and heal emotions in children.
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