“ Stress is a life event or situation that causes imbalance in an individual’s life. An unhealthy response to stress occurs when the demands of the stressor exceed an individual’s coping ability. Often stress results from something that is beyond our control. Control has a great deal to with levels of stress.” DeBord 1.
“ Reactions to stress vary with the child’s stage of development, ability to cope, length of the time the stressor continues, intensity of the stressor, and the degree of support from family, friends, and community” Debord 1
“ The two most frequent indicators of stress are change in behavior and regression of behavior. Children under stress” can change their behavior and react to the stressor by doing things that are not normal for that individual child.” Debord 1
“ It is not necessary to be a therapist to help children cope with stress. One key element is …a stress-free environment. A stress free environment is based on social support, having the ability to think through problems, and being able to anticipate stress and learn ways to avoid it.”
“ Helping Children Cope with Stress” Debord 3
“ Social Support means people to lean on during difficult times.” Debord 3
What teachers can do
Observe children on daily basis for one or two weeks to look for patterns of behavior that seem outside the norm for that individual child.
Encourage children in positive manner.
Let child know it is ok to feel scared, angry, or alone. Give children the names for their feelings and words to express their feelings
Have children view situation more positively.
Structure activities that encourage cooperation not competition and that allow children to go at their own pace.
Talk about the issues. Other children who feel comfortable sharing their feelings can discuss their experiences-this may encourage a child to open up if they feel someone can understand their stress.
Involve other adults in the community-this can be other teachers at the school, directors (or principals), or even ministers.
Keep the lines of communication open with parents or guardians of the child. Discuss your concerns with them in a parent meeting.
Ask for professional help if necessary.
“ Stress and Children” www.bmcc.edu/Headstart/As_I_Am/stress_children.htm
“ Helping Children Cope with Stress” Debord, Karen. No date for publication listed http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/fcs/pdfs/fcs457.pdf accessed July 2, 2010
“ Children must learn to think through a problem.” Debord 3
Remain calm in stressful situations, modeling appropriate behavior.
Be proactive. Schedule plenty of playtime, inform children when transitions are about to occur, and plan activities when children can play out their feelings. See below for practical applications
Develop thinking skills. Encourage children to think about the consequences of their behavior.
Help children tell reality from fantasy. “No, you did not cause your parents’ divorce.”
Focus on the stressor, not the child. Model the idea of talking about the problem and coming up with a realistic solution.
Find time each day to talk to the child.
Give the child some degree of control (with acceptable limitations).
“ As adults, we can make sure we do not add to children’s stress by expecting them to act in adult ways. We can praise, be positive, seek positive solutions, help children name their feelings, teach fairness, help children learn to like themselves, be patient, teach honesty, and give lots of love and encouragement, particularly during difficult times.”