Stress is an unfortunate reality of life, and in most cases, is inevitable. Both internal and external influences may disrupt an individual’s calm, causing stress. Experts believe that we start to experience stress even before we are born and that a certain amount of stress is normal and necessary for survival.
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In children, stress helps develop the skills needed to cope with potentially life-threatening situations and challenges of adult life. However, at the same time, excessive stress not only hampers brain development but can also slow down the physical development of a child.
The Problem: Most children can’t tell if they are stressed!
In most cases, children are unaware of excessive stress and therefore are not in a position to inform their parents about it or discuss it with their peers. Therefore, parents need to be very careful in order to ensure that their child is not dealing with excessive stress.
Signs of Stress/Anxiety in Children:
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Dealing with the devil!
Parents need to help their child prepare for everyday stressful situations. Meeting new people, travelling to new places, going to the doctor etc. are all potential stressors and it is important for parents to talk to their child about their experiences and make them understand that it is okay to be stressed and scared but they are not alone. Communication is the key here. Overly exhaustive schedules with too many activities crammed in, or extremely challenging academics etc. are avoidable stressors.
Lead by example; teach your children healthy and successful coping mechanisms by being a role model for them. Children learn what they see - going for a walk to deal with stress is positive whereas being violent and using substances to deal with stress is negative. Make sure your child does not pick up anything which they should not. In addition-
Ask questions – Even if you already know the root cause of your child’s stress, ask questions to make sure that both you and your child are on the same page.
Don’t accuse – When asking a question, make sure it doesn’t sound like an accusation. Be sympathetic and show that you care.
Be a good listener – Although you may believe that you know everything there is to know about your child’s world, let them do the talking when discussing anything important.
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Show empathy – Every child needs assurance that they are understood. As a parent, you need to express that you understand and ensure your child feels supported.
To conclude, it is important to understand that stress is a necessity for personality development and should be taken as positive. However, as a parent, you can equip your child with the ability to cope with the same, provided you follow the right approach.
Dr Lakshmy Nair
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