Key Points at a Glance:
- Children as early as 3 months can experience stress and show it in different ways too.
- Different ways parents can help their children cope with stress include being a listener and being patient, and by limiting the cause of their child’s stressor.
- Parents can also help their child think of ways to alleviate negative and stressful feelings.
We often connect stress with working too much or dealing with life’s problems and challenges. It’s something that grownups experience almost on a daily basis. Many of us even wish we could be kids again, happy and without a care in the world.
But children can get stressed, too. It is easy to assume that kids don’t experience stress because they don’t show it the same way adults do, or, we don’t know how to spot them.
Even children as young as 3 months can experience stress. In fact, children can sense when their parents are mad or sad. What’s more, they feel the emotions themselves.
According to Zero to Three, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization in Washington, children show they are stressed in different ways, such as:
- Regression on skills they’ve previously mastered
- Difficulties in sleeping, having nightmares
- Separation anxiety
- Eating more or eating less
- Being hostile or irritable
- Withdrawing from family and close friends
These kinds of behavior are normal for children in general as they go through different life experiences, but if these occur often or over a prolonged period, it can be a sign of stress.
If you think some of these behavioral changes are becoming more intense or unusual, consult the experts or professionals who specialize in child development.
How To Help Your Kids Cope with Stress
Aside from consulting the experts, here are some of the things parents can do to help their children cope with stress.
Notice What’s Bothering Them and Help Them Identify Their Feelings
If you notice that something is bothering your child, tell them. Let them know it’s all right to feel bad about something, and that you can help them deal with it. Acknowledging the negative feeling is the first step to overcoming it, so try to help them identify or give a name to what they are feeling.
Remember that noticing your child’s behavior should not sound like an accusation. Instead, make it sound like it’s just a casual observation, and remember to be sympathetic and show them you want to understand.
As an example, instead of saying “Are you still mad about that?” which sounds like an accusation, you can tell them, “It seems you still feel sad about what happened at your school.”
When it comes to labeling children’s feelings, remember that most children still have a hard time putting a name to what they are feeling, just that they feel bad.
As the parent, you can help them examine their emotions, determine the cause, and identify exactly what it is they are feeling. Is it anxiety over a test, guilt over not reviewing their lessons, or the feeling of being left out in school? This way, you are helping them identify certain emotions, making it easier for them to communicate and have better emotional awareness.
Listen to Your Kid
Even this works with adults, so why not do it with children? Give them your time and your ear. Remember that when listening to your kid, you have to be attentive, open, patient, and caring. Listen actively without interrupting them.
Remember that you want to make your child feel that their concerns and feelings are important too, and sometimes, it is all that’s needed for kids. Thus, avoid blaming, judging, or lecturing them about what they should have done.
Help Them Think of Things They Can Do
If something is causing them stress, help them think of things they can do to address the issue at hand. Instead of telling them things they should do, you can work on it together through brainstorming.
Remember to encourage your kid to think of the ideas themselves. Aside from teaching them active participation, you are also building your kid’s confidence and helping them develop their problem-solving skills.
Limit the Cause of their Stress if Possible
If you think it is possible to limit the cause of your child’s stress, do so.
For example, if your child is having a difficult time adjusting to a new daily routine, try to introduce other similar activities first or a similar schedule to allow them to shift to the new routine gradually. Another example is if your kid gets stressed by doing a lot of activities outside of school, try lessening these too.
Be Patient with Your Kid
Kids get stressed, that’s a fact.
However, remember that as a parent, it is your role to help your kid grow and learn the necessary skills to become good at solving their problems and managing their emotions both positive and negative.
Though it might be tempting to fix all of their problems, try avoiding that, be patient, and believe that your kid can solve them.
Caron, C. (2020, November 3). It’s not just adults who are stressed. Kids are, too. The New York Times.
Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. (n.d.). Helping kids cope with stress. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/patients-families/health-library/healthdocnew/helping-kids-cope-with-stress?id=2577