This isn’t about how adults get stressed when dealing with kids. Yes, that can be stressful; but this is about how to recognize stress in your kids. Stress can manifest differently in children than in adults, and your child may be suffering stress without your even knowing it. Here are some suggestions for how to recognize the symptoms of stress in your kids, and how to help them cope.
Stress and Kids’ Behavior
Sometimes, adults get caught up in correcting their kids’ behavior and fail to look for the reason or reasons behind it. Before correcting your child, consider some of these behavioral symptoms in the light of stress.
* Aggression – When your child is stressed, he does not know what’s happening to him. He “acts out” in response to his feelings. He may hit, kick, bite, or otherwise physically lash out.
* Anger – Anger often smolders under the surface, only to explode at something seemingly trivial. If your child exhibits anger that is beyond the scope of the problem (such as having a meltdown over not getting her sock on correctly), then this could be a sign of stress. This anger could also be the result of a behavioral or emotional disorder, for example. But stress should be considered as a possible cause.
* Bed-wetting – After the age of six or so, wetting the bed should be scrutinized as a possible sign of stress.
* Thumb-sucking – This is another behavior that should disappear during the preschool years. If thumb-sucking continues into gradeschool, it might be a sign of stress.
* Lethargy – Adults like to call this “laziness,” but sometimes the tendency to lie around a lot is a sign of stress. It could just be your child’s way of coping, or a manifestation of depression, another side effect of stress.
What Causes Stress in Kids?
One of the biggest mistakes adults can make is to think that kids have no reason to be stressed. Adults tend to think that childhood is carefree while stress sets in after age 21. While it’s true that kids don’t have to worry about paying bills, they do indeed have their own brand of stressors to deal with.
Children can experience stress from such things as family dynamics (divorce, fighting, tense relations between Mom and Dad, etc.), being bullied at school or harassed by a sibling, excessive homework, struggles with classes or subjects at school, certain teachers, and so on. Remember, your kids’ stress is likely to come from a source you are unaware of.
Help Them Cope
So what can you do if you suspect stress in your child’s life? Here are some ideas for helping them cope.
1. Don’t judge – listen to your kid’s feelings and try to help draw them out. Make it a safe environment – your child is a lot less likely to express her feelings if she thinks you’re going to yell at her or have a meltdown yourself.
2. Make sure you acknowledge your child’s feelings as valid. Try to avoid down-playing your child’s struggles, or see them only in the light of adult experience. Your child’s feelings are real, however irrational they may seem to you.
3. Identify the feelings. Your child may just be experiencing emotional and physical symptoms and not really know the connection between those and the stressors in his life. Help your child find words – let him know that the heart pounding and tummy aches may be caused by stress. Help define stress for him using terms and experiences he will understand.
Citizen Counselling and Coaching have a number of our counsellors and coaches who can provide support around stress and anxiety management This can include identifying the obstacles, creating practical plans and through sharing techniques and models that have worked for others. We also have specialist counsellors who work with children aged 4 upwards.
Our â€˜My Stress Coachâ€™ online programme and Coaching was designed for time poor busy people looking to manage their stress and achieve a positive change in their lives.
Our Stress Management page can explain more
You will find our online programme ‘My Stress Coach here