Stress among Children
Vinod Anand | 16 Feb 2013

The myth that childhood is a constant state of bliss devoid of stress needs to be busted. Very young children are also known to suffer from stress due to factors such as academic pressure, friends leaving, or even a change in classroom. I am helping you to identify signs of stress in children and ways to deal with them. Someone's son started a new grade this March.

After two weeks the parents noticed the he was angry, restless and had a disturbed sleep at night. They spoke to the school counselor and realized that he was under stress. He was trying very hard to impress the new teacher. He felt that the teacher didn?t like him much and this was a cause of concern. It is normal for people to wonder if such things can stress young children. The answer is yes. We believe that childhood is a phase of bliss, devoid of stress.

But, children often go through stress without really understanding it. Why do children experience stress so early in life? Young children cannot recognize what they are going through, unlike adults who can, to a reasonable extent, acknowledge their ?stresses. For adults, the trigger factors could be anything from clogged roads, troubled friendships, family, relationships or work overload. Similarly, for children the trigger could be things like a change in their classroom, change of teachers, friends leaving, loss of a toy or academic performance.

Experts believe that children who are burdened with too many activities and whose daily schedules are packed are usually stressed. With little or no time to play or unwind, these children are constantly working under a structured timeframe. As parents, it is important for us to understand that stress in children has not suddenly surfaced today. It has always been around.

Today, we are better equipped to identify stress factors and deal with them sensibly.So, how can we help our children cope with stress? To help them, we should first know what signs to look out for?The first thing is to accept that stress is not just an adult problem. Children experience stress too.If the child is unable to sleep through the night or is persistently crying or is angry, it could be a sign of stress.Watch for negative behaviour such as irritability, anger, frustration, eating too much or too little, etc.

Notice how they interact with others and if they are saying negative things about themselves (I am bad, stupid etc.). It is also important to understand how they behave when away from home. Is there aggression or are they constantly trying to please their friends? Are they coming up with excuses to not attend school or finish a chore, or just before a test? Do they complain of feeling sick (headaches, stomach aches etc.)?Once we identify the signs, the next step is to help kids to cope with stress in the following ways:Help put words to feelings of frustration so that children understand.

Ask them if they are scared or worried. Most importantly speak to them and find out why they feel the way they do.Be positive and have words of encouragement for them. Give positive feedback. "Great that you could do this work," or 'You handled it well. Such words of encouragement will help greatly. Use stress management techniques. Deep breathing always helps. Teach them, and also join them in the breathing exercises. Identify a place where the child can grunt and scream his or her loudest. It helps a great deal. l have found this to be a great favourite with children - ask them to kneel down with hands on their knees and then grunt as loud as they want. One of my friends constantly encourages her kids to take out their anger by drawing angry faces or to write down what they felt.Make funny faces and laugh as much as you can and get them to laugh as much. Read them jokes and lighten the situation.

Laughing is one of the best ways to beat stress. Read about a favourite character and let them laugh. Watch a favourite TV show and laugh with the child.Most of all, it is important to let the child know that it is okay to feel whatever her or she is feeling. Most often children feel very negative about the stress they are going through. They feel that they are doing a bad thing. Acknowledge their feelings and reassure them. Hug them often. Physical touch can heel a lot of wounds.Spend time together and understand the child?s favourite pastime and join him or her in that activity. The child will love it and so will you.When the child is showing signs of stress, lighten the situation with jokes.

It is important to distract the child at that moment and talk about his or her feelings later, when the time is right.lf your children show signs of stress try cutting down on their activities. Give them unstructured time during weekends and let them do mindless things at times. Somehow, in our fast paced life, we feel that our children should have activity packed days, and we want them to learn as many things as possible in very little time. In essence, let them breathe easy and enjoy their childhood something they can cherish when they're older. Remember, a stress free child today will turn out to be a happy adult tomorrow.