Kids experience stress just as adults do. The only difference is that kids may not recognise the emotions or symptoms of stress or know how to manage them. That’s when we see meltdowns.
What stresses kids out?
Kids experience stress when they cannot finish their homework. When they have social or emotional problems in school or at home and do not know how to express their feelings. Kids are easily stressed when they are frustrated, sad or even upset. Sometimes they get stressed when there is a conflict at home between parents or family members. Kids also experience seasonal stress or anxiety such as during exam period or before an important performance.
Hormonal changes in their bodies also causes unexplainable stress. This accounts for why tweens or teens sometimes have no idea why they blew up over a small matter or what caused the sudden influx of emotions that resulted in tears.
A friend who used to work at IMH as a psychologist shares that they are seeing more stress-related cases with kids. A recent report in the Straits Times (March 14 2017) confirms that more children and teens are stressed out. The suicide of an 11-year old pupil over the stress of his academic results last year shocked the nation and rocked the parenting world.
How can parents help?
Here are some stress-busters moms and dads to do to help our kiddos manage stress.
1) Help your child recognise their stress symptoms or emotions and verbalise it. For example, “I am so frustrated with…” Or “I am angry that…” Or ” I am sad because…”
2) Teach them to breathe (take deep breaths in through the nose, breathe out through the the mouth). Focusing on their breathing distracts them from the stressor and helps them to relax. Some schools are now open to empower their students with mindful breathing!
3) If your kids are up to it, go further and teach them to visualise a positive outcome.
4) Drink some water. A few sips will help. Again, the very act of drinking water helps distract your child from the stressor. It also gives your child a “time pause” – a few minutes to calm down before considering what’s stressing him/her and possible solutions.
5) Hug your kid. Sometimes a good hug from Mom or Dad is all that’s required to calm the child.
6) Ask good questions. Start off by acknowledging your child’s feelings. Then ask questions beginning with “what” or “how”. Example: what is bothering you? Want to tell me what happened? How can I help you feel better?
7) Most important, LISTEN. Parents make the mistake of filling in the silent gaps by talking about the problem and giving advice. It takes practice but if you catch yourself talking too much, bite your tongue and let your child talk.
8) Encourage positive self-talk. Work with your child to come up with a simple motivation for himself or herself.
9) Tell child you love him/her. Write it out. Text it to your child’s phone. Make sure your kid knows of your love unconditionally. That home is a safe place for him or her.
Start a conversation with your child and share the following tips from Health Promotion Board (HPB) him/her on how they can manage stress when facing different stressful situations.
A) How to tackle exam stress
- Start revision early
- Stick to a revision timetable
- Set realistic targets
- Seek help when in doubt
- Be prepared
B) How to Manage Anger
- Do not use hurtful words. Walk away from taunting
- Take a few deep breaths
- Think through the problem and resolve it calmly
- Stay Cool.
C) How to stay positive
- Believe that you can face any challenge
- See the positive side of any situation
- Mistakes are not failures. Learn from them.
- Be Strong
D) How to de-stress, relax and be happy
- Talk to your family, teacher or friend
- Exercise or play a sport with your friends
- Watch a movie or read your favourite book
- Tell jokes and have a good laugh with your friends.
If you know any friends or kids of your friends who are experiencing depression or suffering from stress, advice them to call Healthline: 1800 223 1313 or visit the following websites: www.hpb.gov.sg or http://audiblehearts.sg
Till our next post, love yourself, love one another.