Children and Stress
What is the relationship between children and stress? Relating to Piers' own experience working professionally with children we look at how stress is affecting children on a day-to-day basis.
As many parents, teachers and guardians are now seeing stress is affecting our children. As we have pointed out in the articles relating to teen stress, our children are being put under more and more stress.
They are not only feeling their own stresses and strains but also those of their parents - how much are your stresses affecting those of your children?
Changes in Society
The changes in modern media and the scientific advancements mean that communication and learning for children has developed immensely.
Children can now learn a new language just by opening an interactive book or by visiting a website. Ten years ago this would have been unthinkable.
Children are also becoming the master of computers. I remember a work colleague telling me a story about his four year old son. My colleague got back from work one day to find his son watching his favorite cartoons on the father’s PC.
What was amazing was that the father had not shown his son how to turn on the computer, which files the cartoons were hidden in (they were not on the desktop!) and how to watch them!
Children today have an ability with technology that is just amazing!
Peer Pressure and Children
But with its advancement comes the added weight of peer pressure. With TV, internet and media telling children how they should look, act and be, and what they should own, have and hold the pressure and stress to conform is huge.
Children’s self concepts of how they feel about themselves can take a real battering with this extra pressure. And if this is not picked up on by parents by giving their children constant praise and support, then their children will be affected.
Look at your own self concepts - how you feel about yourself - to see whether you praise and support yourself. These self concepts start from a very young age – support from parents, whether we feel we fit in etc.
So you can start to support your own child’s self concepts by really nurturing and praising them.
For example, when you listen to them read – praise them, tell them how wonderful they are, really convey how proud you are. They will know it and this will fill them with joy.
So I think this is key when it comes to children and stress. It is difficult to change how society is and the pressure put upon the child but you can change your child’s self concepts.
If you put your children down all the time, ask yourself if your parents did the same to you? And what are your self concepts like? Do you want your children to learn a different way?
Building your child’s self concepts with praise and encouragement is a wonderful thing to do.
Example of Children and Stress
A few years ago I spent 6 months doing childcare for 3 children.
The youngest girl, who was 4, used to say, “Oh, I hate being me,” and would get really upset. The reason she was saying this was because her sister was a year older than her and could do things she couldn’t: reach the light switch, add numbers; little things. She also didn’t have a lot of nurturing pupils at her school – name calling etc.
So I always made a point of saying wonderful things to all of them: how wonderful and magical they were, how beautiful and amazing.
I didn’t praise their bad behavior, for that there were clear boundaries on what was acceptable or not. But I always filled them with wonderful self concepts.
And the children really came on during that time; the teachers in particular really noticed a difference.
Children and Stress: What Other Stresses Affect Your Children?
Other stresses include:
• Feeling the parents stress
Children are sensitive and feel what’s going on with their parents very keenly. Do you remember how you kept away from your parents when they were angry or stressed? I do.
So manage your own stress so you don’t make your children stressed. Make time for yourself and manage your stress; don’t let it manage you and your kids.
• Moving house
This is stressful for all concerned. Keeping a good routine going and by supporting your children at all times will help reduce stress.
• Parents arguing and fighting
This is terribly stressful for children. In my own life whenever my parents argued I felt I was responsible for it even though I was hardly old enough to speak.
Manage your stress and emotions, if not for your sake, then for the children’s. Find space and time to clear the air with your partner when the children are not around.
A wonderful way of communicating with your partner is with a talking stick. This is a Native American tool. Find a stick which is about 1 -2 feet long and which has a special resonance with you. You can paint it or design it yourself.
When you want to discuss something with your partner use this tool. When each person holds the stick, the other people must listen and not interrupt. When the first person has finished talking, it then passes between people until everyone has said their bit.
It is important to come from a place of how a situation makes you feel rather than as a criticism of the other person. E.g. I feel hurt when you talk rudely to me; I feel that you don’t respect me and that makes it hard for me to respect you in return…
It is a truly wonderful tool and I used it a lot when communicating with the mother of the children I was looking after. By speaking both our truths we cleared the air each time and made clear what we wanted and expected. I really would recommend it.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this article on children and stress and please feel free to visit my other pages.
How To Manage Stress With Children
What is Teen Stress?
What Can Parents Do To Relieve Teen Stress
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