Do you ever worry your little one is worried about something but you don’t know what it is or what to do about it?
Me too. Especially when trying to get to the bottom of what’s wrong is like getting blood out of a stone.
It’s easy to think of childhood being carefree with things only getting stressful when we reach adulthood, but actually being little can be really stressful!
And unlike grown ups, who can reach for things like a nice cold glass of wine or even medical marijuana gummies to help them chill out and relieve life’s stresses, children don’t have the same coping mechanisms at their disposal.
This was brought home to me when faced with the news the oldest’s best friend is moving away – the best friend she does absolutely everything with. It’s one of the biggest changes to have happened in her seven years on planet earth so far, and while she’s actually taking it really well, I also know she’s experiencing emotions she hasn’t had to deal with before. And I’d really like to know how best to help her.
To coincide with Children’s Mental Health Week, which runs from February 4 – February 10 and is all about encouraging healthy minds inside and out, the wellbeing experts at the Chartered Accountants’ Benevolent Association CABA have identified 6 common causes of stress in children and how we can help – advice which has come at exactly the right time in our house!
6 common causes of stress in children
1. School and homework. “Many children feel under pressure to do well at school,” say the wellbeing experts. “For some, all the lessons they have to learn during the day – plus the homework they have to do in the evening – can seem overwhelming, and this can lead to stress.”
2. Exams. A recent report by Childline revealed the service delivered more than 3,000 counselling sessions on exam stress during 2016 – 2017, which is 11% higher than the previous two years. “Those aged 12 – 15 were most likely to be asking for help about exam stress, with the top concerns centering around not wanting to disappoint their parents, fear of failure and general pressures linked to academic achievement,” says CABA.
3. Making friends and peer pressure. “When children start a new school, making friends can put them under pressure,” says the team at CABA. “Those who don’t make friends easily may also feel isolated. Children can also worry when they argue and fall out with their friends. Additionally, making friends can be difficult and as such, many children feel under pressure to fit in – and sometimes, this means they do things they may not feel comfortable with or are unsure of.”
4. Bullying. During 2016/2017 there were more than 24,000 Childline counselling sessions with children about bullying. And according to the NSPCC, studies suggest there are more than 16,000 young people absent from school due to bullying.
5. World events. “It’s impossible to keep disturbing news about things like war, natural disasters and terrorist atrocities from children these days,” says CABA. “As a result, some children may worry about their safety as well as that of their parents, family members and friends.”
6. Family difficulties or changes. “From moving to a new house to parents separating, family difficulties and changes to the norm can be tough on a child or teenager and can cause signs of stress,” they say.
So how we can help?
1. Make time for them. “All parents are busy these days, but it’s important to spend more time than usual with your children if you think they’re worried about something,” say the wellbeing experts. “Make yourself available for fun activities or just being in the same room as them. Ask them about their day and show an interest in things that are important to them. But try to avoid forcing them to talk about their worries – they’ll open up when they feel comfortable talking about it.”
2. Encourage healthy sleep. “Getting the right amount of sleep and rest can help children become more resilient to stress,” say CABA. “Children need different amounts of sleep at different ages – find out how many hours your children need by visiting NHS Choices.”
3. Feed them healthy food. “Good nutrition is also essential if you want to boost your child’s coping skills. Try to make sure they’re eating at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. If your children are resistant to eating fruit and veg, there are lots of ways to get them into their diet.” (These tips by NHS Choices may help).
4. Make stress normal. “It may be useful to remind your children that some level of stress is perfectly normal in life, and that everyone is affected by it and has to find ways of coping,” say CABA. “Explaining that it’s okay to feel what they’re feeling could give them the confidence they need to manage their stress levels. If it helps, try talking about times when you’ve been stressed, and explain how you tackled it.”
5. Keep them active. “Physical activity can help children and adults alike manage stress, so make sure your children are getting plenty of exercise,” say CABA’s wellbeing experts. “Other things you could try with them include relaxation techniques and even things like breathing exercises. Also try leading by example – if you use these methods to manage your own stress levels, your children are more likely to follow in your footsteps.”
If you feel like you need a helping hand or more guidance BetterHelp offers online therapy from the comfort of your own home. For more information click here.
Do you have any top tips for helping children with stress? I’d love to know what they are!
This is a collaborative post.