Stress is a phenomenon that is different or somewhat the same for each child/or adult. We are to some degree conditioned to believe that stress is bad and that there is a solution in a product–Calgon bath salts or a pill. Of course, we need to attend to issues that cause us to feel apprehensive or frightened before or after an experience. However, it is better to talk about the experience before or after to understand the needs of the child or adult.
More importantly, I highly recommend avoiding assuming that all stress is bad or that the stress will continue. Yes, something might be a challenge, but stress isn’t inherent.
Parents who are cautious might unwittingly instill their own fear into a child’s psyche. It is also important to avoid projecting one’s fear into the child’s experience. Avoid using the words stress or anxious (anxiety). Ask the child how they feel without putting a label on it. And assist the child to problem-solve before and after a new experience.
Children may not exhibit stress in the same way as adults. For example, they may display anger or irritability in addition to fear and worry.
It’s understandable that parents would worry about their child’s experiences, but it’s important to know that some childhood stress is common, and with patience, compassion, and communication it can be resolved quickly. Some children take longer to process their feelings. If a child seems to be struggling for longer than a few months you might need to engage with a practitioner who specializes in holistic mental health protocols.
Let’s talk about Common Childhood Worries
There are a number of things that commonly cause worry and discomfort for children of different ages. New situations, challenging tasks, and even unfamiliar people can lead to apprehension and discomfort in children occasionally.
Other age-appropriate fears include:
- ~Fear of Strangers beginning at 7 to 9 months of age and resolving around age three.
- ~Fear of the dark, monsters, insects, and animals in preschoolers
- ~Fear of heights or storms in younger school-age children
- ~Worry about school and friends in older school-age children and teens
These childhood common fears typically disappear on their own as a child grows older.
Signs and Symptoms of Discomfort in Children
As much as it is common to have occasional discomfort, Children displaying discomfort symptoms may behave with:
- ~Anger or aggression, such as yelling, screaming, hitting, tantrum
- ~Avoiding certain situations
- ~Changes in appetite
- ~Getting in trouble at school
- ~Muscle tension
- ~Nervous habits such as nail-biting, hair pulling
- ~Refusing to go to school
- ~Social withdrawal
- ~Stomach aches
- ~Trouble concentrating
- ~Trouble sleeping
The frequency and appearance of stress can vary depending on the nature of the situation. Some fears may be triggered by specific situations, objects, or settings.
Other indicators of concern include symptoms that interfere with a child’s ability to learn, interact with peers, sleep at night, or function normally in daily life. Such as:
- Sickness or death of a family member or friend
- Birth of a sibling
- Community factors
- Being in a car crash, home fire, or other physical mishaps
Common childhood fears that persist beyond the age where they are expected to be afraid (such as being afraid of the dark or being away from parents past the preschool age) are also a point of concern.
And I will close with a little story. When my son was 16 and in his junior year in high school, he asked,
“Mom why do kids freak out when there is a test?
Me: I don’t know. Everybody is different. What do you think about tests?
Son: I like tests.
Me: What do you like about them?
Son: Because then I know what I know and what I don’t know. Then I can learn what I don’t know.
Me: How did you decide that?
Son: Mom!! (incredulous tone of voice) You said there is nothing to worry about and everything has a solution.
There is proof in the pudding. Preparing children in a non- worrisome tone of voice or mindset is powerful and empowering.
Every moment is a teaching moment use it well.