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Calming the Chaos: Help Your Child Understand & Manage Stress

"I stress about stress before there's even stress to stress about. Then I stress about stressing over stress that doesn't need to be stressed about. It's stressful!" —unknown 

 

Everyone goes through some kind of stress, even children. From waking up early for school to dealing with friendships, stress has become part of our kids’ routine. So, it indeed makes sense that there's a whole month dedicated to stress awareness.  

Since 1992, the month of April has been set aside to create awareness about stress and the healthy ways to manage it. Did you know that stress can cause damage to the body that may eventually lead to worse situations? Worse still, we may not notice our bodies telling us to get some rest until we get burned out completely.

 

One major misconception is that childhood is stress-free and all fun. In this article, I'll show you why this is dangerously false and why we need to be more aware of the stress our children go through.

 

Wait, What? Kids Get Stressed?

I often catch adults saying, "I miss being a little kid with no stress, worries, or cares in the world."  That's understandable because childhood can feel like bliss, and children typically look cheerful and carefree. They have no horrible bosses to annoy them and don't even have to think about the next meal. Many of us would sacrifice anything to be kids again.

However, we often compare childhood to adulthood forgetting that everyone, including children, is in their own world. What triggers my stress may not bother you at all. Remember this when next you think that children have nothing to worry about. 

That's precisely why stress looks different for teens, tweens, and kids. While common stress signs in teens include bullying, lying, or defiance, tweens will typically experience tense muscles, insomnia, and exhaustion. Meanwhile, younger children may begin to have nightmares or become clingy.

Your kids' stress can result from these:

  • Bullying and Teasing

Bullying and teasing are problems many kids, tweens, and teenagers face in school. This experience is distressing, has adverse mental health implications, and causes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety. If your child is being bullied, you can learn to help them overcome it in my article: A Time To Fight Back.

  • Inadequate Sleep

Poor sleep is one of the major causes of stress in children. Toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged children need about 10-12 hours of sleep daily. Older children and teenagers should sleep 8 to 11 hours every day. Anything short of this may lead to increased stress, irritability, lack of concentration, and low motivation.

  • Social Media, Social Pressures, and Fitting In 

Negative interactions on social media can expose your teen to virtual peer pressure and affect their mental health.

This includes pressure to wear the coolest clothes, make friends with certain people, and own cool gadgets. Inability to meet these standards can affect their self-esteem and make them stressed. Social media also increases their risk of cyberbullying. You can read more about the effects of social media on our blog: Social Media and Online Bullying: Protect Your Kids Before It's Too Late

 

Stress isn't Always a Bad Thing

"Stressed spelled backwards is desserts" — Loretta Laroche 

The American Institute of Stress explains that eustress is the "good type of stress" associated with positive events and achievements like graduation, marriage, promotion, etc. 

Not all stress is bad for us, especially when it motivates us to reach our goals and become better people. In fact, good stress is vital for kids' overall growth, and ours. The difference between good and bad stress is that while good stress motivates you to grow, bad stress wears you out. Dear Stress, Let's Break Up!

We can prevent and overcome bad childhood/teenage stress through these ways:

  • Get Them Talking 

Effective communication is always the first step to addressing your child's stress. Be approachable and understanding when they let you in on their stressors. Also, you can empower your kids with powerful positive affirmations to protect them from negative thoughts and boost their confidence.

  • Reduce Their Workload 

Letting your teens work and perform specific activities can teach them responsibility. However, too much work at once can be counterproductive and cause stress. So, reduce their workload — and yours.

  • End Toxic Friendships 

Toxic friendships are among the most common sources of stress and mental health challenges in kids and teens. Learn more about helping your children get rid of bad friends in my article: It’s Time to Let Go: That is Not a Friend!

  • Professional Counselling and Medicine Can Help 

Getting your kids professional help for their stress is ofthe the best approach. A medical practitioner will provide the necessary medication or steps to help with sever cases of stress. 

Now, medication for stress is a controversial topic as many parents don't believe children should be taking medicines for non-physical conditions. So, be sure to get expert medical advice before administering any treatment if you endorse medications. If not, you can talk about your concerns with your doctor and ask for other viable options.

 

Final Words 

Are your children having trouble sleeping or concentrating at school? Maybe they've started throwing tantrums or saying things like "everybody hates me" or "I can never get anything right"? These are clear indications that your child is going through stress.

 

Take advantage of this year's stress awareness month to talk to your child about stress. Help them develop healthy coping strategies and tackle their triggers head-on. Also, follow our Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Group for more insights on dealing with childhood and teenage stress. 

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