Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering. ~Pooh’s Little Instruction Book, inspired by A.A. Milne
It is suggested that today’s children are experiencing greater levels of stress than ever before. And unfortunately, these levels aren’t recognized by most parents. Over 1,000 adults and children, ages 8 to 17, were polled in the U.S. on the causes and manifestations of their stress. The results of this survey, published in 2009, revealed that both children and teens rated their levels of stress up to five times higher than the ratings parents assigned. 2 to 5% of parents rated their child’s level of stress as extreme, when this category was assigned by 14% of children and 28% of teens. Unfortunately, parents’ ratings of their own stress show a grim picture as well, with 75% of them reporting moderate to high levels of stress.
It’s important to remember that stress is inevitable. At low to moderate levels, stress is normal and necessary to survival. It can help children learn to cope with demands or threats. However, high levels of stress can be detrimental as the child’s ability to cope is overwhelmed. The health effects of high stress levels include disruption of early brain development, compromised nervous and immune systems, alcoholism, depression, eating disorders, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases.
Where do these high levels of stress come from? If we stop for a moment and look at the typical week of a teenager, Kevin, we might get an idea. Kevin sleeps for 6 hours a night, for a total of 42 hours a week. He attends school for 35 hours, is shuffled around to three after-school activities for 11 hours a week, has homework for 15 hours, for a total of 61 hours. In addition, he is stressing out over a major exam because his parents and teachers are pressuring him to get a scholarship to attend a prestigious university. He also cares for his younger siblings several afternoons a week while his parents work overtime. Other children Kevin’s age may be stressed due to an unhealthy or unsafe living environment or dysfunction in their family.
It’s important for parents to hone in on signs of stress in their children. Parents may be neglecting their children’s present state. “They’re focused too far ahead and not on keeping their youngster’s life balanced now,” says Dr. Coleman, who sees increasing numbers of stressed children and their parents. Signs of stress in children include:
- acting irritable or moody
- withdrawal from once pleasurable activities
- frequent worrying
- changes in appetite or sleep
- frequent physical symptoms like headaches and stomach aches
Reducing stress in children and teens involves healthy living, communication and problem-solving. Parents should ensure their children are having balanced, regular meals and snacks. Also, they should be receiving adequate amounts of sleep. Parents should also listen to their children talk and when problems are raised by the child, help them brainstorm solutions. Regular exercise is also effective in combating symptoms of stress.
Child Psychology Information : How to Help Children With Stress
Stressed children often have parents who are stressed. It is important for parents to recognize and manage their own stress, as they model behavior for their children. This may be a difficult thing in the times we live in, given the current state of the economy, but it is imperative, not only for the health of the children but of the parents as well. Combating stress as a family can include activities like family walks, bicycle rides or trips to a park.
Managing Your Stress
Children are our world’s future. Ensuring their health and ability to cope now will serve us all in good stead later.