Parents tend to assume that it is only adults who can rightfully claim that they are stressed. It is a condition that is normally attributed to a fast-paced workplace and the burden of responsibilities. With this, they become insensitive to their children’s daily problems and wave of the symptoms of stress that their children might be showing. Stress is a condition that is inevitably felt by all ages, parents should always watch out for symptoms in their children in order to properly guide them to deal with stress.
There are two types of stress that children experience. The first is called normative stress which is stress that is experienced by children as they progress through different phases of development. Examples of normative stress are learning to walk, learning to talk, to read and write and learning to make new friends, among others. Normative stress is productive, it cannot and should not be prevented as this helps the child mature and become more independent.
The second type of stress is life-changing stress. This is a more serious situation caused by abrupt changes in a child’s routine. One of the biggest life-changing stress trigger in children is divorce. Children are highly dependent on their parents and when this foundation of their family is threatened, in most cases children feel lonely and frightened. For this reason, parents should try refraining from fighting in front of their children. Death is another life-changing stress that could leave children confused and sad. When death happens, be it a family member, a pet, a friend or a relative, parents must be ready to explain the situation to their children and help as much as they can to help the child grieve and move on with life. Peer pressure is another common cause of stress.
Children have a heavy need to belong and be liked by other children and at an early stage this entails conforming to the social norms in the classroom even if it is against the child’s personal wants. There are many other causes of child stress such as moving to a new community, school work, extra-curricular activities, etc. The key to helping a child handle stress properly is knowing the symptoms of child stress.
The physical symptoms of child stress includes sweaty palms, aggressive outburst, self-comforting actions such as hugging knees while rocking, wetting the bed, trouble sleeping and nervous motor behaviors such as thumb-sucking, finger-nail biting, hair twirling, etc.
The emotional symptoms of stress are excessive shyness and being over clingy to a parent. In time, children develop different ways to cope with stress, some distance themselves from emotions, some would use violence as an outlet and some would simply cry. Stress is a normal part of life that does not normally raise concern. However, over-exposure to stress at a young age and subjecting children to continuously apply their coping strategies may result to a behavioral change that a child would likely carry for the rest of his life. For this reason, it is pertinent to help a child deal with stress properly.
Adults can help by preparing the child for changes to come. Be it moving to a new home or a new sibling, talking to a child about what to expect and helping them have the proper mindset for what is to come would prevent the trauma. Adults should also provide the child an outlet for feelings so that they will always have an idea of what goes on in the child’s head and be able to pinpoint when action is needed.