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Teach Your Child How to Deal with Stress

A number of things in today’s society can trigger a child to feel insecure, unsafe, fearful, unsure, scared or worried. All these emotions lead to stress for children, which can all be caused from simple things like: starting a new school, moving to a new home or location, being away from home, watching local news reports, hearing about something bad happening or knowing someone who had something bad happen to them.

Stress in children can lead to major emotional and physical disruptions in their lives such as: weight loss, bed-wetting, depression, thumb sucking, confusion, loss of memory, fear of leaving the home and a variety of other manic and mental disorders that can all be avoided. Although most severe cases of the above disorders normally occur after an extremely traumatic event has happened in their lives, there are rare cases when small events have lead to major breakdowns that could have been avoided with some intervention and help from an adult to deal with the stress.

Preschool
Young children have a tendency to exhibit minor problems such as crying uncontrollably, clinging excessively to parents, fear of the dark or animals, and eating problems (just to name a few). But you can help your children deal with the stress by first addressing the problem, don’t try to hide the problem or pretend it was not a big deal (this will only confuse children into believing their emotions don’t matter.)

Explain to your child that their feelings are important and that you are there to support them and take care of them. Allow them to express their feelings and comfort them as they address them to you. Reassure them that things will get better, whatever the situation is that has caused the stress.
   
Main points to address:

  • Confirm that things will get better.
  • Allow them to freely express their feelings and emotions.
  • Comfort them throughout the stressful situations.

Grades K-3rd
Children in this age group will normally exhibit stress through sleep problems, poor school performance, and aggressive behavior in school, refusal to go to school, and/or headaches, nausea, vision or hearing problems. It is not appropriate to confirm to this age group that these things will never happen again, but more important to let them know that you are doing everything in your power to protect them and make things better.

Allow them to express their feelings through drawing or paintings, discuss the drawing with your child after they have completed the picture, “What is this person doing and why? EThis will help your child freely express their feelings without fearing other people’s judgment.

It is also a good idea to monitor more closely the things your child watches on TV, the news and on movies. Don’t let them watch things that make the child feel uncomfortable in any manner.

Main points to address:

  • Monitor your child’s news viewing or being around stories or movies that cause discomfort for the child.
  • Spend as much extra time with your child at this time, offering support.
  • Talk to your child consistently, without lying or undermining their knowledge.
  • Have your child draw pictures or write stories about their feelings.

Grades 4th-6th
It is normal for children to deal with some form of stress throughout their lives, explain to your child that feeling angry, hurt, scared, and lonely are all normal emotions and they are OK. As long as they are willing to work through them and reassure them that you are there to help them work through their feelings. Showing an interest in your child will allow them to feel supported and safe to share their feelings with you. Be there for them as much as possible as they are working through their issues, with understanding and compassion.

It helps children to know that others have dealt with similar situations or have successfully dealt with the same type of feelings. You can either find support groups in your area with other children going through the same type of situation, offer your experience or other family members experience and explain how you got through it and the ways you dealt with the stress or find books that deal with those issues.

Main points to address:

  • Monitor your child’s news viewing or being around stories or movies that cause discomfort for the child.
  • Let them know that some feelings and emotions are normal and it’s OK to feel lonely, sad, scared, or angry.
  • Be with them for support as much as possible.
  • Find a support group, book, or share your experiences of dealing with the same situation.

Words of Importance
If your child’s behavior or anxieties persist it might be a good idea to seek professional help, most parents have the skills to deal with their children’s stress but when the child’s behavior is causing serious problems at home and at school it would be advised to speak with a health care provider or your child’s pediatrician.

Resources
Resources that can help you in your venture include:

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