Two Types of Stress Experienced by Children

We are worried about so many things—work, finances, health problems, etc. But do you know that even children experienced stress? Not only adults become stressed about our worldly problems and activities. Children experiences stress and are more susceptible to a lot of forms of stress due to their age. Many people think that children are never stressed and only love to have fun and play but the truth is that even children become worried about many things and also become physically stressed in school and play.

The Two Types of Stress in Children

A child develops as it grows and interacts with his environment. Children also experience stress in two forms—the normative stress and the life-changing stress producing mental and physical symptoms of stress. It is important to identify some examples of these stresses so that parents and caregivers may be able to anticipate stress and help in planning strategies to cope with stress. Children are vulnerable to many risks due to their age. What they need are strong support systems. The role of the parent or caregivers is to be able to assist in the child’s coping and de-stressing strategies in order to overcome it.

Normative Stresses are the stresses that occur at different stages of a child’s development. They may be a productive form of stress as it aids in forming abilities, values, and etc on a child as it develops. Normative stresses can be found in a baby learning to walk, although the baby may find it a very enjoyable task but we may not know that these are developmental stresses already occurring. Toilet training can be another stressful part of growing up. When the child enters school, meeting and getting along with friends poses stress also. Interaction with several other people may seem not stressful to a child but yes, there is a normative stress going on. That is why there is learning and progress. These types of stress help in shaping the personality and behaviour of a child. It helps the child grow and become independent.

The second type of stress in a child is the life-change stress, and is typically more confusing and upsetting to the children. As much as possible, we would like to avoid these type of stress to get into a child as it may pose harm or mental changes on the child. It can also affect the behaviour and temperaments of the child. Divorce is one example of a life-change stress. As previously mentioned, a child is vulnerable to many stresses and needs a support system. The primary support system of a child is his family so when a child’s parents divorce, or even when they fight, a child’s sense of security is threatened, making him feel alone and scared. This can also be confusing for the child as he is too young to understand the circumstance. A child’s ideal state of mind has already pictured a family to be a loving group of people living in a same place with nurturance and care. This can be confusing because children have an object of permanence in his younger years. It can be heartbreaking for them as much as we try to understand the situation. Separation from parents or friends can be another example as it produces a change in daily routines and removing of trust support system. Moving from one house to another can also be risky as when a child has been used to a place, it makes it difficult and may require a lot of effort on his part to be able to adjust himself to a new place. The child may feel uncomfortable at first in his new place. A death of a family member or a pet can be confusing to a child. A child may feel taht he somehow caused the death, which can create a great deal of guilt and stress. Parents always want the best for their child and many specialty training centers are offering several activities and courses during summer. Running from school to athletic activities to music lessons, to schedules without taking time to relax can cause feelings of anxiety in a child. The parents may be good in time management and multi-tasking but it can be a lot stressful for a child. Peer pressure also is very common in school-age kids. Pre-schoolers and school-age  children can be influenced by what other children think and how they act. Other kids may have the latest gadget or toy while your kid does not have. Most children want to belong in the majority of the group. They do not want feelings of alienation. They always want to be part of games and activities. Conforming to these standards—and not wanting to be different from others can cause children to feel anxious.

Signs and Symptoms of Stress in Children

It’s not always easy to know if your child is actually experiencing stress because we know that kids just love to play and have a good time. They may be playing and laughing but how do we tell if they are stressed? Some symptoms and behavioural changes such as mood swings, acting out, overreaction, changes in sleep patterns, insomnia, bedwetting, being withdrawn, prefers to be alone, etc. They may also produce illness such as fever, colds, or headaches. New habits can also be formed during stress such as nail biting, thumb sucking, nose picking or hair twirling.

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