Stress has been part of every one of our lives. After all, it is human nature. However, we tend to think that children are carefree – they have simpler lives than us. As we tell them how hard growing up will be in the real world, we underestimate the reality that kids live in their own “real world” every day. Hence, elders must acknowledge that they do face stress in their day-to-day activities.
Do you ask what stresses children?
Stressors in kids’ lives can include difficult family members, difficult teachers, or overly busy schedules due to schoolwork that leave no room for relaxation.
Presently, children are under stress due to a variety of added reasons. Physical activity and social interaction between children are limited because children are confined to their homes. During their critical years of cognitive development, they are glued to the television, computers, and mobile phones, whether for entertainment, online classes, or family. Watching the behavior and personality of parents or children while quarantined or working from home may also bring some short and long-term effects. Additionally, panicking due to the health issues in this COVID time can cause some severe stress.
Parents always provide physical needs such as nutritious food, warm clothes in the winter, and a reasonable sleep schedule. But, a child’s mental and emotional needs are often disregarded.
Despite not expressing their worries to their parents, kids wish their parents could reach out and assist them when they are struggling. Good friendship and positivity from adults are essential for ensuring that children feel confident, set a high sense of self-esteem, and benefit from a balanced emotional outlook.
Healthy child development is dependent upon good mental health. It helps children develop skills in social interaction, emotional regulation, behavior, thinking, and communication. Taking care of their mental health now builds a solid foundation for happiness and wellbeing later in life.
Signs and Symptoms of Stress
It is natural for some children to have a little self-consciousness or a sense of pessimism. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, there is a point beyond which normal struggles become problematic.
Your child may be facing a problem if they exhibit signs of sadness or anxiety during normal situations, such as meeting new people. In addition, a change in behavior or mood that lasts for more than two weeks could be a serious issue.
Look for trouble concentrating, difficulty sitting still, and difficulty focusing on the task at hand as well. If your child has difficulty functioning in those areas, you should talk to their doctor right away.
Due to stress, children with chronic conditions such as migraines or sickle cell disease are at higher risk for pain and flare-ups. Even healthy children are susceptible to physical reactions to stress. For children experiencing symptoms such as tightness in their chests, breathing rapidly, having a racing heart, headaches, or stomach pain, their parents often seek medical attention.
Childhood fears may manifest as nervousness, shyness, withdrawal, and aggressive behavior. An unhealthy fear may also affect eating and sleeping patterns. Regularly feeling anxious or sick may indicate that a child suffers from some problems that require attention.
Nine Effective Mental Health Tips
- Talk to Them
Ask them about their feelings and thoughts about what is going on. Engage your child in discussion about emotions, and help them identify and label their emotions. Additionally, let your child know that it’s perfectly okay to feel different types of emotions. Educate your child on how to manage small worries to prevent them from becoming large ones. If your child is afraid of something, encourage them to do it instead of avoiding it. Take your time to listen, be calm, and don’t be afraid to get down on their level if the child is small. Listening to children’s frustrations can help them begin to feel understood, and sometimes just talking can help soften their anger.
- Enjoy the Moment
Being with your child uninterrupted during the day can positively affect their mental health, but this is increasingly difficult in an age of constant distraction. Children benefit from looking, smiling, talking, and sharing stories every single day. In the long run, taking the phone off the table and really interacting with your child in uninterrupted play will teach them how to play, feel valued, and get along with others. Occasionally, you can’t help but think about the next ten things you have to do. However, taking any time you can set aside for them will help build a positive bond between parent and child, which is vital for mental wellbeing.
- Learn to Relax
The relaxation response is the body’s natural response to stress. It’s your body’s antithesis to stress, and it brings you a sense of wellbeing and calm. Relaxation can be achieved by incorporating calming and pleasurable activities into the child’s schedule, such as reading excellent works of literature, listening to music, participating in relaxing hobbies (like drawing, sewing, Legos), spending time with family, and friends, or simply taking a bath. Regular exercise is proven to help people deal with stress. Additionally, eating right gives kids’ bodies the fuel they need to function properly.
- Maintain or Implement Routines
When there is increased stress and uncertainty, children need routines to help them cope. Children may experience difficulties regulating their emotions and behaviors when routines are disrupted at school and home. Maintain your normal routines, including waking up, getting dressed each morning, and going to bed at the same time each night. Make a basic weekly schedule and a daily routine for your children. Learning new skills and becoming independent is essential for children. Moreover, children should be taught that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they must take responsibility for the results of their actions.
- Provide a Safe and Secure Home
Children sometimes feel fearful, and that’s okay. At some point, every person has to deal with fear. A fear or anxiety arises from an inability to understand an experience. You must first figure out what is causing your child’s fears to keep coming back so that you can help them overcome them. Instead of being critical, show love, patience, and reassurance to others. It is important to remember that the child may be experiencing very real fear. Give them time to clear their minds. Keep in mind that sometimes even things we might not consider to be a big deal to us can feel huge to our kids.
- Foster Healthy Relationships
Parents and kids have an important relationship, but it’s not the only relationship that matters because a mentally sound kid is more likely to have a relationship with other family members, such as grandparents and cousins. So it is really important to maintain such relationships even though you spend most of your time alone with your children. But if you are living far away from your loved ones, you can still encourage your children to maintain relationships with them through a virtual medium even though they’re less than ideal. You can do so by inviting young children to have virtual visits with grandparents or using Skype or FaceTime apps to connect with friends living far away.
- Recognize Efforts
Being resilient in the face of a setback is essential for good mental health. Parents can foster the traits of persistence and perseverance by acknowledging their child’s efforts and progress at every turn. A parent’s recognition of a child’s effort, acknowledgment of their success, and encouragement when they struggle will boost their self-esteem. Praise in and of itself isn’t bad, but acknowledging effort and progress allows children to develop pride in their achievements. Adolescence is marked by many pressures to navigate. As a result, building self-esteem and resilience are essential traits.
- Teach Stress Management
Teaching your kid how to deal with stress is very important if you want to maintain their mental health in optimal condition. You can do so by spending time talking about their troubles. But make sure to let your child dictate the conversation because if you do the overtalking, it might sometimes lead to an increased level of anxiety and stress in your kids. Your child can also benefit from personalized stress-relief activities. Some children may feel relaxed by writing articles or playing games, while others may feel more relaxed speaking to their friends. Thus, it is your responsibility to identify specific ways through which your child can cope with stress when they are experiencing it.
- Encourage their Interests
Our mental health is improved when we are active, creative, learn new things, and join a team. All of these activities help us to connect with others in a positive way. Encourage your child to explore their interests. Take time to learn about their lives and the things they value. They get to appreciate who they are, and you will be able to identify and support their problems much easier through this method.
As parents, our primary responsibility is to protect our children from abuse and bullying. While stress is a normal part of life, preparing your child for the future by learning how to deal with it now will set them up for success. They will inevitably disagree with friends and fail assignments at some point. Thus, as a parent, it is your responsibility to empower your kids with the needed skills to cope with these circumstances.
Children with mental health issues are estimated to receive treatment in only 21% of cases. In other words, many children with mental health problems do not receive adequate support. Take steps to ensure your child has a healthy mental state. But if you see any red flags, you should alert your child’s doctor. Early intervention can be crucial to the success of treatment.