October 10, 2021 7:17:50 pm
By Himani Narula
Any change that causes physical, emotional, and psychological strain is called stress. Adults often experience stress and can express it in words. Similarly, a child may also experience stress but may not be able to express it in words. They may show sudden change in behaviour, emotional withdrawal, crying for no reason, extreme clinginess to the parent, some common behavioral problems like thumb sucking, fingernail biting, inability to sleep, teeth grinding, nervousness, stomach aches, cold and sweaty hands, bed wetting and temper tantrums.
Stress in children can get triggered due to various reasons like arrival of a new sibling, moving house or city, starting school or childcare, family illness or death, divorce, new stage of development (adolescence), over involvement of parents, learning difficulties, language delays, academic pressures, illness or hospitalisation, unfamiliar situations, change in routines, etc. Children have their own methods to cope, and not all kids get affected. They handle their reactions differently. Some children may have a natural ability to cope with stress, while others may need guidance and support.
Parents can play a key role in preventing stressful situations and in managing stress in their children. The following are some important tips:
* Tell your child if, as a parent, you notice something is bothering them. That may help them open up about problems.
* Talking to your child and giving a compassionate ear to their problems can help them to vent out what they feel. Avoid judging, blaming and lecturing. Be sympathetic and show you want to help. Feeling understood helps your child feel supported.
* Help your child label their feelings. Many kids are unable to use words for their feelings. Teach your child emotional vocabulary. It improves their communication skills and helps them develop emotional awareness.
* Help your child think of things to do, give ideas and suggestions, but letting them be an active participant will build their confidence to solve the problems.
* Stressful situations like incomplete homework, last-minute preparation can be stressful. Teach them to be more organised to prevent stress.
* Patience is the key; role-model the right behaviours and practices to help children learn by observing adults.
* A good sleep is essential for physical and emotional well-being. So, 9 to 12 hours of sleep for 6 to 12-year olds and 8 to 10 hours of sleep for a teenager is essential.
* Physical activity is the best method to relieve stress.
* Research has found that expressing by writing can reduce mental distress and improve general well-being.
* Promoting healthy screen usage and media practices and preventing exposure to cyberbullying, peer pressures, can prevent them from running into questionable content.
Children and teens easily fall into the trap of negative thinking. Parents must not only disagree with them, but must also ask them to really think about whether what they say is true. Teaching and helping your child to frame things positively will help them develop resilience to stress.
(The writer is a developmental and behavioural pediatrician, and the director and co-founder of Continua Kids)
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