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Monday, May 26, 2008

Stress and Children

Stress is the body's natural reaction to a stimulus and it disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of a person. Simply put, it is the pressure one feels when confronted by a challenge or problem.

Given the fast-paced nature of modern living, higher expectations are being set for children than days gone by. The main causes of stress in our young children today include:

*Peer pressure and competition;

*Changes in familiar routines or faces:

*Expectations to perform well academically and in extra-curricular activities.

Signs of Stress in Children

Here are some tell-tale signs that your child could be suffering from stress:

* Sleep problems;
* Anxiety or panic attacks
* Refusal to have proper meals;
* Bouts of moody and irritable behaviours;
* Constant sense of being hassled and pressurised;
* Being sad and depressed for no good reason; and
* Occurrences of headaches, stomach problems etc.

Do note that different children have different ways of acting out their stress. Some children develop rage fits and may take it out on others. Others may keep to themselves and become withdrawn and reserved all of a sudden.

With proper guidance and advice, children can be taught to manage stress properly and turn it into a motivating force instead. Unfortunately, for children who are not guided adequately, they can suffer consequences such as a weakened immune system, which leads to health problems, and negative self-esteem.

Ways to Help Children Cope

Here are some ways by which you can help your child cope with stress:

1. Listen to him
Set aside some time everyday to talk to your child and ask him about his day. Probe him deeper to find out issues that he has been worried or anxious about if he seems particularly withdrawn or quiet.

2. Talk to him about managing stress
Through careful observation, you would gradually know what brings your child down and makes him anxious. With this knowledge, you can teach him to anticipate and be prepared to manage stressful situations, like doing homework or taking a writing test that is challenging.

3.Plan proper rest time
Sometimes the simplest solution can be just proper rest. If your child is frazzled after a long hard day in school, send him to bed earlier than normal, so that he can have adequate rest and "recovery" time.

4. Assure him constantly
Tell your child that it is okay to feel stressed at certain times and that it is a common emotional experience in people. Remind him that you are always there for him, no matter what.

5. Look out for fun and relaxing activities
Encourage your child to participate in fun activities that take his mind off his problems. Be it swimming, cycling around the park, or playing a game of friendly soccer with his friends - let him sweat it out and have some good fun.

6. Be careful with your words
Never use words like "stupid' or "slow" on your child if he does not perform academically or do something to your satisfaction. Many factors can contribute to his inability to do something expected of him. Try to find out the reason and work together with him to help get back on track.

7. Don't compare!
Never compare your child with his siblings, friends or relatives. Recognise that he is his own unique individual. Comparisons will only add on to his stress and lover his self-esteem, rather than motivate him.

8. Who's the ambitious one, really?
Ask yourself: Does my child really need those extra tuition classes and enrichment lessons? Or do I need to help him achieve a good balance between work and play?

Generally, children do learn to handle stress better as they grow older but it is important for parents to teach them stress management skills from an early age.

By teaching children simple and effective tips for managing stress, we are also equipping them with problem- solving skills and helping them to become resilient and independent individuals.

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Anonymous jane said...

hi. You have very valuable information here. Thanks for sharing them

July 28, 2008 at 7:06 PM  

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