Unfortunately, stress is not an “adults only” problem. Children can feel stressed, too, and they need for the adults in their lives to teach them proper coping mechanisms. But sometimes, adults feel stumped and unsure what to do.
Here are some tips for helping children cope with stress.
1. Recognize the Signs
Depending on the age of your child, stress can exhibit various signs and symptoms. Toddlers may regress to baby-like behaviors, such as using a diaper, be fearful of loud noises, or even bite. Preschoolers may cry uncontrollably, have anxiety, and experience problems with eating or sleeping.
Kids of grade school age may have difficulty with friendships, become withdrawn, or be distrustful. As kids move into the preteen and teen years, stress may present as feelings of loneliness, anger, low self-esteem, and extreme behaviors.
So if your child is showing signs of stress, what do you do?
2. Don’t Add to the Stress
Your child does not need to hear about all of your problems. Unless it’s something relevant to his or her life, too much information can be burdensome to kids. Your child should not be your confidante, sources caution. So make sure you check your own behavior, and discuss your feelings with a trusted friend or relative instead.
While you’re talking out your life stresses with a peer, make sure you’re available to listen to your child. Active listening is a skill, and it’s important for helping kids cope with stress.
Asking your child outright whether or not he or she is stressed or if something is wrong may not get much of an answer (or you’ll get the infamous “Nothing”). Rather, listening also involves observation – note your child’s behavior. It can tell you a great deal. Pay attention to your child’s non-verbal communication, in other words. Watch body language and what words they use on a day-to-day basis. And when your child does choose to talk to you about his stress, then try focusing more on listening and less on reacting.
Helping younger kids with words that identify their feelings may help the feelings seem less intimidating and overwhelming. Help young children by labeling their emotions and explaining what they are feeling.
5. Include Your Child in the Solutions
As you talk over stressors in your child’s life, include him or her in discussions regarding solutions. Let him think of some things he believes might help. This can actually provide a lot of insight into how your child is feeling.
Hopefully, some of these tips will help you as you help your child cope with stress. Remember, stress can have a solution.
Photo by chmeredith