Most parents these days are subjected to higher levels of stress than they were a generation ago. We lead hectic lifestyles both in our work and social lives which can create a feeling of being overwhelmed. Different people cope with stress in different ways, some turn to yoga or meditation; others look to friends and family for support, while others may prefer some “me time”. The most important thing is that your stress is not visible in front of your children.
Being a parent, whether you are a full-time stay-at-home parent or a working parent, each brings its own stress. Children DO cause stress, along with plenty of smiles and happiness. They have their moods, and they frequently don’t do as we wish, especially at times when we are experiencing stress from other areas. Often we snap at our children when they do the smallest of things wrong, which, while understandable, is not the right solution. It is one of the reasons why it is healthy for both parent and child for them to attend a quality kindergarten such as Kidz Village. It allows the child to make new friends and be in a different environment while parents can relax and do some of the things that they need to do.
How does stress affect a child’s development?
Children are aware of stress from an early age, and the damage that it can cause is not just emotional and mental, but physical as well. Stress causes a release of the hormone cortisol that causes an increase in heart rate and raised blood pressure. It is part of the body’s natural fight or flight response, but overexposure can lead to long-lasting physical damage and trigger chronic disease.
Long-term exposure to stress for children whose minds are still developing can lead to behavioural and emotional problems. It is essential to differentiate between tolerable stress, which is healthy and teaches a child to avoid dangers and toxic stress. Toxic stress is what is damaging and is the type of stress that is caused by domestic violence and constant arguing in the home. However, it can also come from parents just being stressed from external factors. Even with a supportive partner, children are likely to sense this stress.
Stress should also be avoided during pregnancy as it can lead to premature births, low birth weights and other, potentially serious complications. Scientists also have noted the correlation between stress during pregnancy, and impaired mental function, behavioural problems as well as harm motor development. In short, even before a child is born, stress can have a negative impact on their development.
How does stress affect a child’s learning?
Stress has a severe impact on a child’s learning, even at a very young age. It has been linked to ADHD in young children as well as other motor development problems as previously outlined. However, as children progress through their school life, it can manifest itself further with behavioural issues and disruptive behaviour. A lack of concentration, as well as seeking attention, will also disrupt learning even within a kindergarten environment.
As children develop, some children may experience difficulty completing homework or assignments. Too often teachers and parent are quick to attribute this merely to laziness, childhood impatience or just bad behaviour without looking to find the root cause. Poor academic performance and falling behind at school could be a sign that stress is impacting on a developing body and brain. It is something that should be addressed in an understanding and positive manner to establish the cause. Without intervention, it can cause long-term damage beyond just a child’s ability to learn.
Should your child be experiencing stress from their home life, parents should do all they can to remove this stress. Adult stress should never become a child’s stress and is simply unfair and damaging. It may be advisable to seek therapy or counselling for the child to help them overcome the stress that they have already experienced and move forward positively and productively. The most important thing is to recognise the problem early and address it.
What are the signs of stress in a child?
Of course, the most critical factor in dealing with your child’s stress is recognising that there is a problem in the first place. While there is no definitive answer for this because every child is different, it is vital to be aware of unusual behaviour – behaviour that is out of character for your child and abnormal behaviour – behaviour that is different to that displayed by other children.
Remember, especially in toddlers and younger children, having a meaningful conversation about stress is unrealistic, so it is down to the parents and educators to look for signs through other forms of communication. Changes in behaviour are usually critical indicators and should be picked up upon and explored. Changes may not necessarily be a sign of stress; it could be down to behaviour, a simple change in habits or that your child is growing; nevertheless, it is worth taking note.
Here are some common changes that may be displayed if your child is experiencing stress:
- A change in sleep patterns – are they sleeping less or more, perhaps having a more disturbed night’s sleep with increased frequency?
- Changes in eating habits – are they eating more or less? They could be avoiding their favourite foods or “picking at” or playing with their food
- An increase in crying without apparent reason or tantrums over things that would previously have been accepted
- Waking during the night due to nightmares or perhaps fears before sleeping
- It can be displayed in physical ailments such as headaches, changes in bowel movement or stomach ache
- Are they having anxiety attacks, anxious tics, nervous coughs or abnormal body movements such as twitches or unusual reflex actions?
- Is your child sucking their thumb more or chewing on their hair? These are often signs of nervousness as the habit can provide some reassurance
Did you find our article interesting?
We hope that you found this article interesting and maybe addressed some of the concerns that you may have had about your levels of stress. Here at Kidz Village, we believe in teaching students to be independent and disciplined while building their self-esteem and confidence. Our acclaimed International School in Bangkok strives to provide the ideal environment to promote learning. For more information, please call us on +66 2888 3337 and we will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.