Recognizing When Your Child Is Stressed
Small Things Can Be Very Upsetting
Growing up in the tropics, I remember playing with my school friends without a care in the world. We would play with the tadpoles in the trenches under our driveway. When we saw tiny snails on the sides of the trenches we’d all jump into the muddy water, lean in close to it, and chant, “snail, snail, come out of your shell,” hoping to entice them to stick their head out of their shell. Did it work? I have to admit, I never saw a snail poke its head out of its shell because of our chanting!
It’s tempting for grown-ups to remember childhood as an idyllic time. Sometimes, we adults think that since children don’t have to worry about paying the bills, keeping a job, cleaning the house, and so forth, they can’t possibly have any problems. This is a counterproductive way of thinking, though, because children do get stressed. And they need your help to deal with it.
Children do not have the coping mechanisms, born of experience and maturity that adults do. This is why seemingly small things can be very upsetting to children. So be patient and learn to recognize your kids’ stress and help them cope. Here are some things to look for and some tips on helping them deal with their stress.
- Physical Symptoms
Stressed children may exhibit physical symptoms, such as stomach pain, diarrhea, headaches, restless sleep, nightmares, bedwetting, changes in appetite, nausea, increased heart rate, and pretending to be sick to avoid activities.
- Emotional Psychological Symptoms
A stressed child may exhibit depression, anxiety, excessive sensitivity, social withdrawal, clinginess, increased crying, anger, stubbornness, aggression, and emotional overreactions to minor incidents. Stressed kids may be aggressive or have angry outbursts.
So if you see these symptoms in your child, what can you do? It’s tempting to do nothing.
Parents may think it will go away on its own, or that their child will outgrow it. But stress needs to be confronted and coped with so that it does not become entrenched in your child’s thought and behavior patterns. Here are some things you can do:
Really listen. You may ask your stressed child what’s wrong, or why he is acting a certain way, and you may not get an answer. Or you get an answer like “Nothing.” But really listening means paying attention to your child’s words and body language even when they don’t know you’re watching. Certainly asking your child what is wrong is a good thing to do; it shows you care. But don’t interrogate her or him, or expect your child to be able to verbalize exactly what’s occurring in her or his life and how it’s affecting her or him. Even some adults have trouble with this. So try to “read” into the passing comments, complaints, and body language of your child.
- Express Empathy
If you express empathy, it shows your child that you do notice and understand. Verbally expressing empathy can also help your child build a vocabulary to explain her or his stressful feelings. You might say, “I bet it hurts your feelings when people call you names. It hurts mine, too,” and share an experience from your past.
- Help Your Child To Be Proactive
Work with your child in finding solutions to her or his stress. Sit down and make lists of things she or he could do, such as writing a letter to the stress-causing person or cutting back on some of his extra-curricular activities. Let your child know that she or he does not have to be doing something 24 hours a day to have personal worth. She or he has worth because of who she or he is!
As parents, we don’t have to tackle the stresses of our children on our own. If you are concerned that your child is experiencing significant symptoms of stress regularly, it is helpful to work with a health professional, such as your doctor, who may refer you, and your child, to a mental health professional. Mental health professionals have special training to help identify problems and develop effective strategies specifically for children, to resolve overwhelming feelings of stress.
“Freeing Your Child from Anxiety is an excellent book, one of the best of its kind.” — Judith S. Beck
This article was originally published on my site at https://donnapresents.com/recognizing-when-your-child-is-stressed/.
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I’m Donna SLam, who loves to blog about how meditation brings self-compassion, peace of mind, and clarity to my life and others by sharing tips and strategies on how to live a fulling and purposeful life. I enjoy championing others to lead a healthy and happy life through meditation, walking, self-development, and spending time with loved ones.