Children and Stress
Children, like adults, are familiar with the discomfort of anxiety, even though they don’t need to worry about earning a living, paying bills, dealing with health issues, etc. They, too, are confronted with the uncomfortable feelings of tension.
There are three categories of stressful events which affect children:
* Environmental or developmental events, such as toilet training, beginning school, learning and becoming more responsible for oneself.
* Disturbing events include illness, accidents or death of a relative or new events such as the birth of a sibling, moving to a new house, a new school or a first camp experience.
* Major stressful events are hospitalization for a chronic illness or surgery, a disabling accident, separation and divorce, family violence or the death of a parent or sibling.
Although many think of stress as a negative, it’s important to remember that it can help a child develop good coping mechanisms for future emotional discomfort, therefore strengthening character. Children’s reactions to stress vary, depending on the reasons for the stress, the child’s personality and a variety of social, psychological cultural and developmental factors. Temporary behavioral problems may arise when a child can’t cope with a situation at hand. For young children, temper tantrums, excessive clinging or fears. nightmares, bedwetting or a new reluctance to attend school may occur. How adults react to these symptoms may dictate whether the distress is temporary or becomes chronic. We parents constitute the alter ego of our young ones. We can help them to understand an experience and separate reality from the fantasies (young children often engage in ‘ magical thinking’ ) which can diminish anxiety.
Here are some ways to help your young child cope:
* Become aware of how children think, feel and react at different stages of growth and development. You’ll know what kinds of experiences can be traumatic and be better equipped to assist.
* Be honest and open, as possible, when discussing a traumatic event to help your child build a sense of trust and strengthen your relationship.
* Develop your children’s coping skills by offering information and talking with them in [age appropriate] advance.
* If your child is struggling, talk about the problem in small doses to make it more manageable. Provide facts and observe reactions.
* If considerable anxiety or behavioral changes persist, consider consulting a mental health professional.
Children are wonderfully resilient but caring, understanding parental support is a crucial asset for learning how to manage life.