Stress is defined as the body’s reaction to change, expressed through physical, emotional and intellectual responses. Stress can be induced by both positive and negative experiences or thoughts. In positive situations, one’s stress may make them feel alert, motivated and prepared to protect themselves. In negative situations, one may feel like they are unable to relax or find relief from the stressful feeling. They will begin to feel overwhelmed and can develop a condition called distress. When your child is experiencing stress, they may need your support and guidance to manage these natural responses. If your child’s stress is becoming a constant in their life, consider talking with a doctor about potential anxiety disorders.
Things that seem minuscule to adults can feel like the end of the world for kids. There could be constant stressors in their life that may be affecting them on a daily basis. Your child could become stressed every time they are away from home or you. They may also feel stressed with schoolwork and their ability to succeed academically. With virtual learning, they could be feeling even more lost or unmotivated to challenge themselves. Another common stressor kids and teens experience daily is the social pressure to ‘fit in’. With social media, it is very easy to see what everyone else is up to and feel the need to compare lives. They may feel stressed that they will lose friends, be bullied or become lonely if they do not meet these social expectations.
Other stressors in your child’s life may be more situational. Believe it or not, your stress could be rubbing off on your child. If they overhear you talking about issues at work, arguing in the home or worrying about the health of family/friends, they may begin to pick up on this tension and feel overwhelmed. The death of loved ones and divorce or separation of parents can cause significant stress for your child even if it seems as if the situation was handled in the best way. It can be stressful for your child to be constantly thinking about these types of things without knowing the full context or understanding the scope of adult problems. With internet access, they are seeing news about different things happening around the world. This overload of sometimes negative information can cause anyone to stress, but especially children who are already worried about the safety and wellbeing of themselves and the people they love.
You know your child better than anyone and will likely notice shifts in their behavior signifying that they are stressed. Some of these signs include mood swings, acting out, feeling sick, repeatedly lying, bullying behavior, changes in their sleep pattern and changes in appetite.
So how can you encourage mental wellness and aid your child in handling these stressors and symptoms?
Handling stress looks different for everyone. The practices that work best to relieve your stress may or may not work for your child. This process will require some trial and error but the benefits will make for a more positive and stress-free life for your child. Here are some things that could relieve your child’s stress and help manage their physical and emotional symptoms.
Practicing these different forms of self-care with your child will teach them that there are healthy ways to cope with stress. Stay committed to making time to talk with them even if there is nothing to talk about. Your child will feel more comfortable opening up to you when they need to and you will feel more confident in your parenting.