Helping Young Children Deal with Stress

Through the eyes of an adult, childhood can seem somewhat carefree and untroubled, but children do experience stress from time to time.  Even the process alone involved in growing up can create stress in children.  Stress begins at an early age with social issues, school-related issues, and even family issues that can often be overwhelming to youngsters.  In addition, young children are more vulnerable because they don’t have the experience or coping skills necessary to dissuade the negative effects of stressful situations.  To make matters worse, young children don’t always make the first move to initiate conversations concerning problems they may be having, or issues that may arise, but studies show that children depend on their parents to be extending a helping hand and be involved in every situation.  As a parent, you probably won’t be able to completely erase stress from your child’s life, but you can teach them how to work out everyday problems and deal with stress effectively.

Protective Factors
Although a certain amount of stress is a natural part of living, there is a growing body of research that conclusively indicates that certain factors are essential in dealing with stress effectively.  Young children who are able to handle stress well have a high level of self-esteem, a perceived sense of control, a consistent family life that imposes rules and limits, and open communication with parents and other family members.

Signs of Stress in Young Children
Stress will manifest itself in a number of ways depending, largely, on a child’s personality, age, and developmental level.  Some of the signs that your child may be experiencing high levels of stress are as follows:
* Disrupted sleeping patterns
* Disrupted eating patterns
* Rapid weight loss or gain
* Excessive daydreaming
* Frequent headaches or stomach aches
* Withdrawal
* Indigestion
* Excessive aggression

How Parents Can Help
Parents should make a practice of building the ability to become aware when stress begins to become burdensome to their children. Here are some practical tips to help young children with stress:
* Help them label their feelings.  All too often, a child’s lack of experience causes them to not know exactly what they are feeling.  Defining feelings like anger, hurt, sadness, and frustration will help your child understand the confusing world of human emotion.
* Do more listening than talking.  Let your child finish articulating their complete thoughts on what may be bothering them.   Avoid the urge to interrupt or judge what they are saying.  Be patient, calm, and listen with interest and attentiveness.
* Encourage your child to come up with a solution.  After discussing a problem, ask your child what they think they should do.  After a bit of discussion, offer other solutions.  Active participation in problem solving will give your child the confidence they need to come up with their own solutions when you are not around.

One of the most important things parents can do is simply be available.  Let your child know that they can come and talk about anything.  Sometimes children just need parents to lend their ears to listen and their shoulders to lean upon to help them through stressful childhood issues.

About Melissa J. Murphy

Melissa Murphy is in the business of building self-esteem, instilling confidence, and restoring hope in those who have given up on life. She is currently completing her degree in psychology, and has worked as a life coach and faith-based counselor for more than a decade. By bringing her personal life experiences into her work, Melissa is able to help others survive their wounds, heal their pain, and live a life of success despite having incurred overwhelming emotional scars. For the last few years, she has discovered the joys of writing and has published a growing number of articles. Melissa currently resides in the Houston area with her husband and her two wonderful children.

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