Growing up comes with a different set of challenges, from worrying about upcoming exams to experiencing peer pressure. A little stress can help an individual become more alert and accomplish tasks more efficiently. Studies, such as one done by researchers from the University of California Berkeley, suggest that short-lived stress primes the brain for improved performance.
However, too much stress can lead to anxiety, health problems, burnout, and overall loss of productivity.
How do you tell if your child is overly stressed?
Here Are 10 Signs to Look Out for in Your Child
- Increased moodiness
It’s understandable that children get moody from time to time, especially if they are feeling some physical discomfort or when they are experiencing anxiety about school. However, if you notice your child’s moodiness being out of character or is becoming more frequent, it’s time for deeper probing.
- Throwing tantrums or showing signs of aggression
This behaviour may also get him or her into trouble at school. Does your child suddenly react with physical aggression, such as hitting, kicking, or biting? Or verbal aggression like name-calling or screaming? A child may also easily lose patience in certain tasks and take out his or her frustration on others.
- Nightmares or sleep disruptions
Increased worry and anxiety can interrupt sleeping habits. You may also notice your child being woken up by nightmares. Nightmares can also be caused by being too tired and having an irregular routine for sleep, so it is important to create a calming environment especially before bedtime.
- Difficulty concentrating
Stress can cause the child to lose focus when doing tasks that require concentration. Do you see them easily distracted when doing schoolwork? Perhaps the child’s schedule is overly packed and trying to juggle too many things at once is causing some anxiety in the child. Try to lessen the child’s activities in favor of a more relaxed schedule and see if that will bring about positive changes in behavior.
- Withdrawing from friends and family
Is your child normally sociable and is now suddenly withdrawing from family and schoolmates? Is the teacher reporting that your child is spending more time alone than with his or her usual set of friends? Try sticking to a familiar family routine that the child enjoys and see if that will slowly encourage the child to engage in other social activities.
- Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
Stress and anxiety can cause children to not only withdraw from friends and family, but also from the activities they used to enjoy. Does your child suddenly refuse to play basketball when you know that this is what he loves to do? Or does she want to quit dance class out of the blue? There may be a deeper reason than simply falling out of love with the activity and is worth a conversation with your child.
Experts say that stress is not normally the reason for the child to start to wetting the bed. However, stress can indirectly affect the child’s bedwetting. Behaviours that the child engages in when under stress, such as eating a high-salt diet, drinking fluids before bedtime, or not going to the bathroom at night, can make bedwetting worse.
- Change in appetite
A sudden change in eating habits can also be a sign of stress. See if your child is eating more or less than normal. See if there are other physical discomforts that is affecting his or her appetite, as this may require medical attention.
- Frequent complaints of headaches or stomachaches
Physical manifestations of stress may also be present, such as headaches and stomach pains. However, stress might not be the only cause of the discomfort, which is why it’s important to look for other symptoms, such as fever or rashes, that could indicate a medical issue.
- Overreaction to situations or increased fear
Are you noticing new or recurring fears in your child, such as fear of the dark or fear of strangers? Is his or her reaction to people and situations blown out of proportion? This can also be related to the negative thoughts and emotions that the child is already experiencing, which can affect how they react to certain situations.
What Parents Can Do to Help Their Children Cope
First of all, parents should be even more understanding and patient with their kids. Children may not admit or even determine right away that what they are experiencing is stress. Moreover, children may not be mature enough to explain articulately what they are feeling. It’s up to the parents to initiate a meaningful conversation with the child.
Find out what is causing the stress and anxiety. Do you put too much pressure on academic achievement? Is your family currently experiencing any kind of conflict? Is your child having problems with bullies? Is your child complaining about a teacher that he or she is afraid of?
These are just some of the questions that parents can ask in order to get started on determining where the stress is coming from. It will be easier to find more effective solutions if we know the causes of the problem.
When the problem has been identified, try to remove the child from the stressful environment and create a relaxed home atmosphere. Talk to the other members of the family about what’s going on and how they can help. You may want to commit to a routine, such as family dinners or morning walks at the park every weekend. Make sure that the child feels calm, safe, and secure in the home.
Look at the child’s learning environment, as well. See if there are possible stressors in school or even in tuition. Sit in if you have to. For instance, there are tuition centres that encourage parents to join the lectures and participate in their child’s learning activities. Getting involved in the child’s activities will help parents recognize anxiety triggers in the child’s environment.
Lastly, seek the help of professionals to determine what other interventions are right for your child. Make sure to take note of the warning signs so you may adequately discuss these with an expert, if necessary.
To recap, stress can be good because it increases alertness, productivity, and even memory. However, too much stress can be detrimental to a child’s physical and mental health. A variety of warning signs may show, so it is important for parents to be present in determining which behaviours are normal and which ones are out of character. Remember, parents, play a crucial role in first recognising the signs of stress in their children, and secondly, in managing their stress and anxiety in a healthy way.