All children, even very young children, experience stress. All children also benefit from an increased ability to deal with stress and can learn ways to do this.
Research shows that up to 90 percent of illnesses are related to stress.
Having too much stress can make it more difficult for children to concentrate, to learn, and to get along with others.
Stress also has a profound effect of children’s health. If children are afraid or anxious, they may spend so much energy worrying that they are unable to learn.
The good news is that children can learn simple, age-appropriate coping strategies. Those who learn healthy coping skills to deal with stress feel more competent, are more resilient, and are better able to relax and to solve problems.
So where does all the stress come from for children?
- Change–moving to a different home or school, or starting school for the first time;
- Having too much to do and being over-scheduled;
- Feeling different from other kids, or being teased or bullied;
- Fighting or arguing among family members, or not getting along well with siblings;
- Having trouble with schoolwork
- Being yelled at by family, friends, or teachers;
- Family break-up; and
- Most of all, when they feel lonely and unloved.
You can help your kids when they feel stressed. Spend time with them. Listen to them when they talk to you and try to understand how they feel.
Show your children that you love them with words, hugs, and kisses.
Do things with them. It will help them to feel like they belong to the family. And do things as a family, such as eating together, cooking together, exercise, and play.
Help by example. Learn how to manage your stress in a healthy way.
Healthy food, along with enough exercise and sleep, are very important, too. Bedtime and morning routines will help kids learn to relax at the end of the day and get the next day off to a good start.
If you think your kids are feeling stressed, ask them. Ask them how they feel and if they know why. Ask them how big the problem is and listen carefully to what they say.
Help them choose what to do next.
For more information, contact your local Canadian Mental Health Association at 274-2347 or visit www.cmhaff.ca
Editor’s note: May 7-13 is Mental Health Week.