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Stress in Children- What to do?

by Dr. Mandar V. Bichu
Published: Last Updated on 0 comment

Stress in children and its management are important topics to learn and understand in today’s world.

What is Stress?

The first and foremost thing to understand is that Stress is Normal!

Stress is the body and mind’s normal physiologic response to different challenges. It helps an individual in Fight or Flight response, meaning either in facing the challenge or avoiding it. It involves release of certain chemicals and hormones in the body such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. These chemicals alert the mind and increase the heart rate and blood pressure.

In small amounts, stress is beneficial but when it is excessive or persistent, it causes distress, and it is harmful to health.

Can children also get stressed?

In an ideal world, childhood is supposed to be happy, enjoyable and carefree. Unfortunately, in reality, even many children are getting excessively stressed out. According to one study, 1 in 3 US teenagers reported feeling stressed, and even younger children are falling prey to it.

What happens in stressed children?

Stressed children may start showing symptoms such as:

  • *Sadness, feeling withdrawn or angry or aggressive
  • *Feeling lonely or overwhelmed
  • *Not sleeping well or sleeping excessively
  • *Not eating well or eating too much
  • *Excessive weight loss or weight-gain
  • *Unexplained physical complaints (Headache, abdominal pain, tiredness, constipation, diarrhea, palpitations)
  • *Nail-biting, Thumb-sucking, Bed-wetting

What are the common causes for stress in children?

There can be Individual factors, Family or Parenting-related factors, School-related factors and Lifestyle factors behind childhood stress.

Individual Factors:

  • *Negative personality traits
  • *Presence of any acute or chronic illness
  • *Physical weakness or disability
  • *Perception about appearance (Looks)
  • *Teenage issues
  • *Social handicaps (poverty, race, gender)
  • *Social media pressures

Family or Parenting Factors:

  • *Broken family
  • *Parental fights
  • *Divorce or death of parents
  • *Too strict or too lax parenting
  • *Parental demands or expectations
  • *Sibling rivalry
  • *Child Abuse

School or Education-related factors:

  • *Unsuitable school environment
  • *Peer pressure
  • *Bullying
  • *Studies
  • *Examinations
  • *Results
  • *Expectations

Lifestyle factors:

  • *Overwork
  • *Lack of sleep
  • *Lack of physical activity
  • *Wrong food habits
  • *Excessive use of digital screen devices
  • *Substance-abuse (Smoking, alcohol, drugs)

Management of Stress in Children

How can we tackle Childhood Stress?

Awareness is the key. If any suspicious symptoms are observed, then identify early, and seek support from family, school or community. It is wise to seek early medical attention to identify the problem correctly and consult professional counseling, especially when the problem is not getting resolved within the family.

What are the strategies to prevent or counter stress in children?

Positive authoritative parenting with positive discipline, effective inter-family communication and supportive family structure is paramount. Healthy lifestyle with focus on balanced healthy diet, adequate physical activity and sleep, and safe, controlled digital usage, helps in preventing stress. Yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises are very helpful. Connection through communication with friends, family and community, and a good school and social environments, all these things provide a lot of support.

Take expert advice at the earliest, when any suggestive signs of stress appear. With awareness and preventive strategies, childhood stress can be avoided.

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