Stress Management for Kids: How do children experience stress and how can we help them?

girlThere are many reasons for anxiety or stress in children. Getting stress management help for your child can assist them in understanding and controlling the things that contribute to stress. Here are some examples of why kids experience stress.

Economic pressure

On a macro level our economy is indirectly making kids more stressed than ever before. Children feel the effects of the economy through their parents’ stress and worry. We pass on our stress to our children and they feel it as intensely as we do.

Older children can even experience this economic pressure themselves. More and more young adults are graduating from college only to discover there are not the jobs or the kind of opportunities they had expected.

Competition

Our society is very competitive and our children feel the pressure from it at an early age. There is academic pressure as well as competition to be overly involved in extracurricular sports and activities.  For many kids, their day begins at six and doesn’t end till nine or ten pm. This lifestyle can flood a child and bring them as much stress as an adult experiences in their professional life. We live in a very driven society and we value achievement over rest and holidays. I think that parents are completely overwhelmed and fragmented, which effects consistent parenting. All of this exasperates stress in our children.  Remember that kids are sponges to our stress and have their own so the combination of both can be overwhelming.

Marriage, divorce, and separation

Whatever stressors are happening in the family will flow down to the child and whatever marital struggles, divorce, and separation is no exception. When a divorce or separation takes place often kids are forced to be passed from one household to another household.  There are tremendous stresses inherent in these transitions.

Even intact marriages can create difficulties in children when there are constant conflicts and fighting. A child’s ability to maintain emotional stability is very fragile and living in an environment fraught with conflict and emotional outburst, even if subtle, can throw off a child’s sense of stability quite easily.

Overstimulation

One of the biggest stressors for people of any age is the fact that we live in a world that is vastly over stimulating. Our inner lives as well as social media bombard us with stimulation from emails, texting, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and the list go on. People have trouble sitting silently or tolerating quiet in their mind.  Instead we choose to flood our minds with various electronic intrusions. I often refer to it as “the hoarding mind.” Overstimulation in a child’s mind can lead to stress.

How does a child’s stress manifest itself? Many kids experience:

  • Digestive problems
  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Sarcasm
  • Anxiety,
  • Defiance
  • Nail Biting
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Changes in Eating habits
  • Excessive Exercise
  • Eating Disorders
  • Changed motivation

How can you help your kids cope with stress?

Spend more time with your kids and model turning off your own electronics while spending time with your kids. Simply talk. I have found that when one walks with their children and even talk about the simplest things that are going on that a space develops for the child to share their own worries.

I think that there needs to be an actual concerted effort to “just be” with one’s kids as parents. I think that we are just as caught up on the latest text, Facebook post, email, or phone call just like our kids.

Secondly, we need to assess the severity of the stress that our kids are experiencing. If it seems like it is more serious than you need to seek the help of a professional.

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