It’s common to hear adults talking about how stressed or overwhelmed they are, but do we hear from our children how they feel? Research finds that between 8 and 10% of North American children are seriously troubled by stress.
I’ll never forget a class meeting I shared with my students some 6 years ago. The students were discussing their feelings and all but 1 boy said, “I’m so stressed!” They were 8 and 9 years old. Probing them further, I asked, “Why?” Here is the short list of reasons they mentioned:
1. Too much homework (I must note that they mentioned subjects areas
outside of what I taught since I was always conscious about how much I
have and NEVER gave any over the weekends.)
2. Sibling Arguments
3. Too many extra-curricular activities ie. feeling overscheduled
4. Parent expectations
5. Home problems
6. Stressed out parents always yelling
It broke my heart to see these young souls sharing their stories of stress.
The only boy that day who wasn’t stressed called out emotionally, “I’m allowed to be a kid!” The room went silent. I asked him what he meant. He replied, still very emotional, “I get home from school, take a shower, put on my pajamas, do my homework, eat dinner, play or read then go to bed. I’m allowed to be a kid, Mrs. Kurt.” He was so right.
Today, our children sleep fewer hours, play fewer hours and spend time by themselves fewer hours than ever before. The result is that they are stressed, even children as young as 3 research shows! One researcher, Dr. Kim Payne, was shocked to return to the United States after having lived and worked in war torn countries helping children cope with post-traumatic stress. What he found was that North American children were exhibiting the same physical and emotional signs of stress as the children in the war torn countries.
How can you tell if your child is stressed? Here are some signs to look for:
* reoccurring headaches, neckaches or backaches
* nausea, diarrhea, constipation, stomachache
* shaky hands, sweaty palms
* bed wetting
* trouble sleeping/nightmares
* change in appetite
* frequent colds, fatigue
Emotional or Behavioural:
* new or reoccurring fears; anxiety and worries
* trouble concentrating; frequent daydreaming
* restlessness, irritability
* social withdrawal, unwillingness to participate in school or
* nail biting, thumb sucking, hair twirling, foot tapping
* acting out, anger, tantrums
* regression to baby-like behaviours
* excessive whining or crying
* clinginess, won’t let you out of site
The best thing you can do is to discover the reason behind your child’s stress and then put a few things in place to improve the current dynamics. The step-by-step solutions will be discussed fully in my next article, going up tomorrow morning!