With the present lifestyle and ever pacing environment, children also need to walk hand in hand with these changes. However, this constant pressure of keeping and going with the flow is good enough to induce stress in children.
Stress can affect anyone at any time. It is unavoidable. Though it is considered that stress can help to cope up with certain situations, it becomes a point of concern when a child is affected emotionally and physically. Stress also amplifies manifold when a child is undergoing some changes or trying to adapt to a certain environment.
When we shifted from Noida to Pune, my little one was not aware that she would not be returning to Noida soon. Though she was happy to move to a different city, the thought of leaving behind her besties, school and home troubled her to the core. She underwent a phase of change along with a phase of adapting to a new environment. We did not understand that she is going through stress, the truth is that she was… She would wake up howling and refuse to go to school and cling to me at all times. Her behaviour was alarming and I started to work towards it.
Stress in children can be because of a positive change or a negative change. While the positive changes are a part of healthy development and often easy to handle, negative changes, on the other hand, can give rise to tolerable or toxic stress responses. Then there are toxic stress responses which might arise from any sort of emotional or physical stress, neglect and exposure to violence. These can disrupt a child’s developing brain.
With each passing year, there are more and more responsibilities, activities, changes, classwork, homework and not to forget hormonal changes which make these children susceptible to stress. If you don’t know whether your child is under stress then these signs may be helpful for you:
- Nightmares: These usually occur as imagery dreams which result in anxiety and fear. The child might wake up crying or shouting. The child usually remembers the dream and is quite sceptical to go to bed since they fear that bad dreams will haunt them. Understanding what they are going through helps them.
- Night terrors: These are very similar to nightmares but with a somewhat more pronounced presentation. The child screams and shouts. These usually last for just 5-20 minutes but the child lands up sweating, with fear and racing heartbeats. Try to make their nighttime more relaxing and less taxing.
- Bedwetting: If lately, your grown-up child has started bedwetting then it is a sign to watch out for stress. They might have a lot going on in their tiny brains thus leading to a miss in the toileting cues. Don’t snub them, instead talk to them and if need be sought doctor’s advice.
- Lessened Concentration: With each higher grade the academic pressure increases. Also, social pressures increase and children literally try to fit in which is a major cause of stress in children. We often enrol our child for extracurricular activities. Agree, this is good for them, but over scheduling them can lead them to be very anxious. Help your child to prioritise his work and day well in advance.
- Aggression and hyperactive: If you see that your otherwise calm child is behaving a bit weird and is aggressive then it is time to check his stress levels. Children when under stress can react with physical aggression like stomping, kicking and some even have verbal aggression like yelling and screaming. They find it difficult to complete their tasks with this aggression. Try to talk to your child, calm him down and understand what is bothering him.
- Eating disorder: If your child is not a fussy eater and you observe major changes in his diet then this is something that you should be worried about. Children when under stress may exhibit sudden changes in their eating habits. They may start eating less or more than their usual diet. Again try to find out the root cause of your child’s anxiety and talk to them.
- Withdrawing from people (family and friends): Relocation, quarrels among parents, bullying, sibling rivalry, effects of bad marriage, yelling, spanking are all good enough reasons for a child to go in his shell. They may experience stress and may feel left out. When you see your child withdrawing from people, offer him a positive environment at home, maintain familiar routines and talk to his teacher and friends.
- Overreacting on small issues: These days the children are under tremendous pressures like pleasing parents, getting top scores, going for numerous extra school activities, peer pressure and a stress to cope up with all these things. A child who is stressed can easily become irritable and flare even at the littlest of the issues. Sometimes we don’t realise when the small things become really huge and start causing stress to the child. Building a child’s confidence is the best way he can meet the challenges on his own.
Help them blossom and not whither under the harsh pressures of the world…