Attending school, after-school tuition classes, hobby classes, personality-development classes and a host of other co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, the life of a school-going child is certainly not easy these days. Add to this a bunch of kids whose job is nothing but to bullying others. And it is not difficult to imagine the stress levels children these days must be facing.
These facts on childhood stress are corroborated by a recent study done by Vanderbilt University.
Vanderbilt University study analysed more than 200 studies involving over 80,000 children and adolescents and found that just like adults, children too face alarming levels of stress.
The bad news is chronic stress can lead to mental health problems like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome, eating disorders and even substance use. So, just like adults, it is important for children to learn ways and means to manage stress.
The good news is as a parent you can play a crucial role in helping your kid keep his/her stress levels low and aid in his/her mental well being.
So, what you can do as a parent is:
Talk to your children and let them express themselves freely. Don’t start giving advice the moment they mouth their problem, but just listen to them patiently.
After the child has vented his heart out discuss with him/her the ways and means of resolving the issue.
Talk about your own experiences at that age, and how you dealt with issues, and the lessons you learnt in the process.
Give your child a new plan to deal with the issue, and tell him/her to follow it for a few days. If it works, that’s good enough, if it doesn’t think something else; some out-of-box idea.
Chronic stress is a cause of concern as it can disrupt the white matter present in the brain of children which is as yet still-developing. Stress can thus lead to long-term problems with complex thinking and memory skills, attention span, learning as well as behaviour, says Bruce Compas, lead author of the Vanderbilt University study, published in the journal Psychological Bulletin.
The study points out that it is important that children be taught adaptive strategies like constructive communication and looking at the problem from a different angle. Children who resort to things like avoiding their emotions or deny the presence of their feelings have much higher levels of stress as compared to those who recognise the problem and talk about it.