5 Practical Ways to Reduce Stress in Children
Would you have thought today that stress could assault children just as seriously as it does adults? We would often wonder what happened to the magical, innocent, halcyon days of youth. We should have seen this coming of course. More than ever today, experts are employed helping distressed children i.e. children who have trouble eating and sleeping, do poorly in school, get sick frequently, and are moody, irritable, belligerent and withdrawn. Also more and more young people are abusing drugs and alcohol, becoming involved in crime and even committing suicide.
Source of Stress in Children
Certain sources of stress have always confronted children; the death of a parent or close family member, problems at school, difficulties in making friends, fear of changes and the unfamiliar and so many other things. But the root cause of extra pressures and challenges affecting young people today can be traced to:
- Family Breakdown. This probably causes children more emotional stress than any other factor. It robs them of stability, trust, love and security.
- Poor nutrition. Diets laden with sugar, salt, caffeine, fats and chemical additives incapacitate the development of healthy bodies and brains.
- Child abuse and violent crimes against children. This includes developmental or emotional harm as well as physical abuse.
- Too much freedom. This causes stress in that kids who have freedom are more likely to experiment with drugs, sex and alcoholism for instance. Many are left to their own devices daily since they come home to empty houses as parents are busy at work. Negative peer pressure then becomes their guide on how to behave.
- Economic pressures. This makes the generation of youths today to have to face the possibility that they might not be as successful in financial terms as their parents. There are simply not enough resources to provide the children of the world’s exploding population with the life-style they are taught to desire. The inability to achieve unrealistic material expectations produces stress.
- Overprotective Parents. Parents create stress for their children by overprotecting them, by being overcritical and demanding, by not keeping promises or by simply not being available to them.
What Can Parents Do?
Parents cannot remove or protect children from all kinds of stress. The degree to which children suffer from stress depends only partly on events and partly on how they respond to those events. Parents can help children cope with stress by teaching them to respond effectively to stressful situations.
Here are six practical techniques to help improve stress conditions in children:
1. Take your children’s concerns seriously. Problems such as fear of the dark, difficulty with a mathematical assignment or a scuffle with another child at school may seem trivial to you as an adult, but may be overwhelming to a child. Treat your child’s concern respectfully and show him or her how to respond maturely rather than laughing it off or trivializing your child’s feelings.
2. Communicate with your children. Let them talk about whatever is on their minds. Knowing you care will strengthen your children. Become a better listener and be positive in your communication. You can praise their successes while not being overly critical of failures.
3. Help your children with their state of health. Proper diet and exercise are important parts of your children’s well-being. Many of the stressful situations unique to childhood are best relieved by various physical activities.
4. Give your children realistic expectations. Yes, help them aspire and you’ll see that they’ll achieve more that way. Helping them accept limitations and the limitations of the opportunities around them is part of the road to success. Nothing fosters frustration and stress like expending increasing amounts of efforts in pursuit of unrealistic goals.
5. Help your children develop discipline. This is to enable them to become what they are capable of becoming. Success in any endeavor is dependent on the ability of the individual to practice self-restraint. Children need structure, predictability and stability in their lives.
6. Build strong family bonds. Let your children know you love and want them. Make time to be with them daily. If the demands on your time and energy prevent you from putting your family first, you need to reconsider your standard of living and all other priorities.
Children nowadays have more trouble coping with modern crisis probably because they don’t have as many adults- grandparents, aunts, uncles etc. they can count on. Stripped of loving family bonds and denied the security and encouragement the family traditionally provided, many children today struggle to cope with a world more uncertain and more frightening than ever before.