6 Signs Your Child is Stressed
Kids today are stressed out. Like adults, they also experience various forms of pressure and feel that they have to perform on a daily basis. As parents dealing with your own stress, you may very well miss the warning signs that your children are struggling to cope. If you are unaware of these things, you cannot help them to manage their anxiety in a healthy way. Here are 6 warning signs that should alert you that all is not quite sunshine and roses.
Nightmares or Trouble Sleeping
This is one of the most common signs and has to be dealt with in the correct way. Scolding your child to stop seeking attention and get some rest, is not the way to go with this one. When children feel afraid or weary they usually don’t voice their emotions. They bottle things up and carry their baggage around with them. This can lead to disturbed sleep patterns or even nightmares. If this happens give your child the attention they deserve before dismissing their behavior. Comfort them and ask what is going on. Tell them that other kids also have nightmares and this is normal, this will encourage them to open up and release their anxiety.
Loss of appetite
When a child no longer wants to eat or brings back their lunch from school day after day, while still refusing to eat, you should sit up and take note. A sudden loss of appetite and interest in food is a serious warning sign, especially with younger kids who are still in their growing phase. The other side of the coin may be that your child is eating way more than usual, often gulping food down much faster than they should be, and perhaps putting on weight. As adults, we tend to either over-eat or under-eat when we are under pressure. The same goes for children and teenagers. This is one of the most common signs that your child is under stress and the best thing to do is set aside some time with your child to have a chat and sort things out. Plan some time alone with your child and do something fun that they will enjoy, this will create a relaxed environment for conversation.
Not doing their School work
Most parents will view this as being stubborn or lazy, which is sometimes the case. However, if your child is showing a lack of interest in work and not performing as usual then you need to sit up and take note. The pressure to perform both academically and socially is a lot for some children to manage. Make sure that your child knows that you are proud of them and that they need only do their best. A mistake that a large amount of parents sadly make is to place a great deal of pressure on their child to do well and that only the top results are good enough. This makes children feel ashamed and discouraged if they ever under-perform according to the standards set for them. Avoiding homework, not wanting to work and generally showing a lack of enthusiasm for schoolwork is a sure sign that all is not well. Keep in mind that there are various stressors that affect children. They may feel that they don’t measure up to their classmates or that they are “stupid” if they don’t score as well as their friends or they may very well be struggling with their studies. You need to take an interest in their academics, without being overbearing.
Aggression or Over Reacting
When a child is suddenly over reacting to things or having angry outbursts, then you need to sit up and listen. Children are not just “difficult for no reason”. They are sensitive and react to what they are feeling emotionally. Keep in mind what your family is possibly going through: have you or your partner started a new job? Have you moved or has your child switched schools? Children do not know how to positively process their situation and they often resort to anger, as they don’t know what else to feel or how to understand their emotions.
If your child is generally a pretty happy kid who goes through life quite easily, then a sudden onset of neediness is a sure warning sign. Children know that they are safe and secure at home and do not regularly feel the need to “cling” to a parent out of the blue. If your child is constantly seeking your attention or wanting to follow you around like a shadow, then you have got to ask yourself the question “why?” What reason would your independent, happy-go-lucky child have to suddenly wish to glue themselves to your side? Should this be happening, you have to realize that there is some stress factor triggering their need to feel protected and loved.
If your child is withdrawing themselves from family activities, watching television or generally staying in their bedrooms alone, you might want to take a closer look. When children retract themselves from the daily interactions inside the family, this is a clear warning sign and should be taken seriously. Yes, sometimes it is just that much easier when the kids play by themselves after your long day at the office, but there is a time when this behaviour is not entirely okay and should be seen as a cry for help. When children feel depressed they withdraw, plain and simple. Not wanting to take part in things or becoming less animated is a red light that something’s up. Make the time to go and sit with your child and spend some time together, quality time, where you can find out what they are struggling to deal with.
The emotions that children experience are very real and too often we dismiss them as simply being a part of growing up and going through the right of passage that we all do. How we react to situations and the atmosphere at home are things that a child is sensitive to. When we fight with our partner in front of the kids, they notice this and internalize this stress. When we bring our own issues from work home and indulge in a bit of “moaning time” at the dinner table rather than asking how they are and what they are feeling, we ultimately neglect their emotions. Our lives are so busy that it is easy to go along with the motions and become less and less aware of our kids.
There are some truly easy and fun ways in which to ensure that your children are happy and healthy and that you know what is going on with them; such as a family movie night or games night at home once a week. Take the family out for ice cream or for a picnic at the park on a Sunday afternoon or enforce a rule to actually eat dinner at the table during the week and talk as a family. These are a few little ways in which to encourage a connection with all your children and will go a long way to keeping an eye on their emotions.