Is Your Child Stressed Out? The Answer May Surprise You
Does your child complain of stomachaches, headaches and other mysterious ailments? Do you notice concentration levels dropping or incomplete schoolwork? If so, stress could be contributing to unexplained behavioral changes in your children.
Some phycologists observe that it is not uncommon for parents to be unaware of the high stress levels their children are experiencing. A 2010 survey of the American Psychological Association revealed, among many other statistics, that nearly 1 in 5 children report experiencing extreme levels of stress while only 3 percent of their parents believed their children’s stress level to be extreme.
Left untreated, chronic stress can create psychological and physical problems that inhibit a child’s development. If you think your child could be stressed, there are steps you can take to reduce stress and become more in tune with your child’s emotional well-being.
Set Realistic Expectations
Children today are under more pressure than ever. With the competitive nature of education and the rampant rise of the comparison trap thanks to social media, children feel that they are under the microscope in ways we never experienced. Parents can help by choosing positive reinforcement and offering attainable incentives over negativity and berating. It is also a wise choice to not only check up on your child’s social media activity, but check your own as well. We love to publically laud our child’s accomplishments but oversharing could be contributing to their stress in ways we don’t know.
Dr. Bob Block, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics contributes depression to being “over-scheduled.” Dr. Block continues; “The more activities a kid is involved in, the more opportunities there are to not do well in them—not live up to a standard, either their parents’ or their own.” Dr. Jerry Bubrick, director of the Anxiety and Mood Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute has a pretty simple calculus for how much is too much. “Can you still do your homework? Can you still get 8+ hours of sleep each night? Can you still be a part of your family? Can you still hang out with your friends? If the answer is ‘no’ to one or more of these, then it’s too much.”
Equip Your Children
Dr. D’Arcy Lyness from Nemours Behavioral Health “As a parent, it hurts to see your child unhappy or stressed. But try to resist the urge to fix every problem. Instead, focus on helping your child grow into a good problem-solver — a kid who knows how to roll with life’s ups and downs, put feelings into words, calm down when needed, and bounce back to try again early in life, is more equipped to deal with stress as they grow older.
No Helicopter Parenting
Hanna Rosin for The Atlantic, states that “the overprotective instincts of modern parents are destroying children’s independence, trapping them in a hyper-controlled bubble that they might never escape.” Rosin cites research out of Norway that shows that kids are programmed to be risk takers, because taking risks are how children learned. Kids who take risks while they’re young tend to be less fearful, handle stress better and are more independent adults, and kids who don’t take risks end up being, what Rosin calls “nervous nellies”.
Prepare for Potential Stressful Situations
As it is within your power to do so, anticipate potential stressful situations and prepare your children for what to expect. Many times, simply explaining the details or timing of an upcoming event can give your child an idea of what to expect and curb any nerves or meltdowns that can come as a result of unmet expectations.
Keep The Main Things The Main Things
It goes without saying that proper rest and good nutrition can boost coping skills, as can good parenting. Make time to be present with your kids each day. Turn off the screens and media and spend time doing things together; games, projects or other side-by-side activities you both can enjoy. When you make yourself available, your kids will be more likely to open up to you and share what they are really feeling and experiencing. But don’t try to make them talk, even if you know what they’re worried about. Sometimes kids just need to know that, no matter what, you’re for them and will always have their back.
It’s pertinent to note that some worry and stress requires intervention by a medical professional. If you begin noticing sudden withdrawal or drastic behavioral changes be vigilant and seek help. No matter what, our kids need us more than they tell us and we need to be proactive, present and prayerful in our parenting as our children navigate the school years.