Stressed-Out Kids: When They Feel the Pressure Too

Stressed-Out Kids

When someone asks, “Who is often stressed out?” children are often the last thing to come in mind. After all, isn’t stress supposed to be an adult thing? Since kids are free from the serious responsibilities of paying the bills and keeping a job, they should be happy and carefree always.

On the contrary, even your tiny tots are subject to stress. Even the youngest child is not free from their worries.

As parents, it’s important for you to know if your child is stressed and to determine the primary stressors in their lives. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), there is a disconnect between what the kids say they are worried about and what their parents think is stressing them out.

By learning more about childhood stress, you can help your child recognize its signs and teach them how to manage it properly.

Stress In The Context of Childhood

stress responses in childrenStress is a part of any person’s life. It’s the body’s normal reaction to pressure or very demanding circumstances. The kids are not an exception. They too are subject to this natural response. In fact, they can experience stress early in their lives, even before they were born.

Generally, there are three types of stress responses in children:

  • Positive stress response. Considered as a normal response that is necessary for healthy development. Situations that result in positive stress response include starting at a new school or making new friends at summer camp. When experienced in a warm and supportive environment, it can provide them with more opportunities to hone healthier responses to life changes.
  • Tolerable stress response. The body activates its alert systems on another level as a result of more severe stressors. Examples of such situations include divorce of the parents, bullying, illnesses, and injuries.
  • Toxic stress response. Occurs when the child experiences prolonged or multiple stressful events without a stable source of support. Situations that induce a toxic stress response include chronic neglect, emotional abuse, exposure to violence, or parental mental illness.

Types of Childhood Stress

Just like you, your kids face many pressures from internal and external sources. Consider the following examples:Stress in school

  • Stress in school. Plenty of today’s kids are pressured to do well in school. It doesn’t help when parents are too overbearing when it comes to academics. The growing number of homework combined with the fear of failure lead to students exceeding their personal limits just to do well in school.

Apart from the academics, peer pressure is also an issue. Kids just want to belong with their classmates.        When they don’t fit the mold, they might end up getting bullied. To appease their peers, some children drastically change their habits just to fit in with the cool kids. Doing so can be stressful and also results in the loss of their self-identity.

  • Stress in the family. No family is perfect; arguments happen between parents and siblings. There are, however, heavier issues that trigger toxic stress in children. For example, the kids aren’t always comfortable with the idea of divorce, remarriage, parental stress, a death in the family, and unreasonable expectations from their parents.
  • Stress due to media. Kids can get stressed with what they see on TV. They can worry about the things they see or hear on the news or from their generalized fear of burglars, strangers, and street violence.

A certain amount of stress is necessary for survival, especially for kids. When they face difficult situations, the stress forces them to cope with their current circumstance and build resilience. But when the stress is too much to handle, it can negatively affect their physical, mental, and emotional health.

Signs and Symptoms of Childhood Stress

Kids, especially the younger ones, may find it difficult to verbalize or even recognize the signs of toxic stress. Childhood stress often manifests through short-term behavioral changes, which include the following:

  • Crying  Symptoms of Childhood Stress
  • Clinging; unwilling to let go of their parents
  • Moodiness or irritability
  • Withdrawing from activities that they used to like
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Refusal to attend to school
  • Unwillingness to participate in any social activity
  • Trouble focusing or completing their schoolwork

Younger children may pick up new habits like hair twirling, thumb sucking, or nose picking. Older kids who experience toxic stress may begin to bully others, lie, or defy authority. There are also some who experience nightmares and insomnia.

When the pressure becomes too much to handle, your child may experience a variety of physical, mental, or emotional symptoms. If this is left unaddressed, they are at risk of developing anxiety disorders or other serious mental health issues.

Help Your Child Help Themselves

So, how do you help your kids manage their stress properly?

Good nutrition and proper rest can help them with their coping skills, but nothing beats good parenting. Always make time for the children. When they need to talk with you or just want your presence, make yourself available. Your kids need you; if you’re not there, they will turn to their friends instead.

When you do spend time with them, don’t force them to talk. Instead, let them open up on their own. Even if you know what their problem is, let them say it. Sometimes, kids will feel better when you spend time with them on activities they enjoy.

Help Your ChildAs the children grow older, quality time with them becomes more important. Understandably, it’s difficult to always make time for the kids, especially when you just came home from work. Keep in mind, however, that the children had a hard day too and they don’t have the same coping mechanisms as you do. Always make it a point that you talk to them so that you can come up with solutions together.

It also helps to prepare them from potentially stressful situations. For example, let the children know ahead of time that they have a doctor’s appointment ahead and explain what will happen. Tailor the information according to your child’s age. Younger kids won’t need all the details while the older ones will appreciate it.

Stress can build stronger kids, but too much of it is not good for them or for anyone. Don’t let your children experience excessive stress. Instead, be with them and help them help themselves.




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