Take the pressure off the little ones: how to lower stress in children

When the pressure is on some kids lash out.

Dr. Mahmud Ibrahim of Performance Spine and Sports said there are usually signs that children are under stress and most of them are a cry for help. He said some warnings that a child is facing too much stress can be short-term behavioral changes, mood swings, acting out, changes in sleep patterns or bed wetting.

“Some kids have physical effects, including stomachaches and headaches,” said Ibrahim. “Others have trouble concentrating or completing school work.”

There are also different symptoms to look for based on the age of children. Young children can pick up new habits like thumb sucking, hair twirling or nose picking, he said. While older children may lie, bully or defy authority.
He said if a child is stressed it’s time to take action. Parents can do this by ensuring proper rest and nutrition, for a start. Then making sure that children have time to talk about themselves and how they are feeling with their parents each day.

“Whether they need to talk or just be in the same room with you, make yourself available. Don’t try to make them talk, even if you know what they’re worried about,” Ibrahim said.

It all boils down to parents letting their children know they are important to them and that they care about their feelings. Parents can further ease stress by avoiding talk about trouble at work, finances and arguing about adult situations in front of children.

Sometimes there are more significant factors at play that may require the help of a professional, according to Ibrahim. For example, a child may start to act out when his parents start going through a divorce. The behavior will usually resolve once the stressor is removed and/or addressed by counseling.

Another possibility, especially in young children, could be developmental delays. When a child feels anxiety from difficulty with feeding or speech and can’t properly express it they may lash out. At that point Ibrahim said it’s wise to involve a pediatrician.

“Stress can affect anyone who feels overwhelmed,” said Ibrahim. “Sometimes kids just feel better when you spend time with them on fun activities.”

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