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What Is Stress?Stress is a feeling thats created when we react to particular events.Its the bodys way of rising to a challenge and preparing to meet atough situation with focus, strength, stamina, and heightened a Thehypothalamus signals the adrenal glands to produce more of thehormones adrenaline and cortisol and release them into thebloodstream. These hormones speed up heart rate, breathing rate,blood pressure, and metabolism. Blood vessels open wider to letmore blood flow to large muscle groups, putting our muscles onalert. Pupils dilate to improve vision. The liver releases some of itsstored glucose to increase the bodys energy. And sweat isproduced to cool the body. All of these physical changes prepare aperson to react quickly and effectively to handle the pressure of themoment.lertness.The events that provoke stress are called stressors, and they cover awhole range of situations — everything from outright physical dangerto making a class presentation or taking a semesters worth of yourtoughest subject.The human body responds to stressors by activating thenervous system and specific hormones.This natural reaction is known as the stress response. Workingproperly, the bodys stress response enhances a persons ability toperform well under pressure. But the stress response can also causeproblems when it overreacts or fails to turn off and reset itselfproperly.Good Stress and Bad StressThe stress response (also called the fight or flight response) iscritical during emergency situations, such as when a driver has toslam on the brakes to avoid an accident. It can also be activated ina milder form at a time when the pressures on but theres no actualdanger — like stepping up to take the foul shot that could win the
game, getting ready to go to a big dance, or sitting down for a finalexam. A little of this stress can help keep you on your toes, readyto rise to a challenge. And the nervous system quickly returns to itsnormal state, standing by to respond again when needed.But stress doesnt always happen in response to things that areimmediate or that are over quickly. Ongoing or long-term events,like coping with a divorce or moving to a new neighborhood orschool, can cause stress, too.Long-term stressful situations can produce a lasting, low-levelstress thats hard on people. The nervous system senses continuedpressure and may remain slightly activated and continue to pumpout extra stress hormones over an extended period. This can wearout the bodys reserves, leave a person feeling depleted or
overwhelmed, weaken the bodys immune system, and cause otherproblems.ContinueBackStress and anxiety in children and teenagers are just as prevalent asin adults. Stressed out and negligent parents, high expectations inacademic or other performances, abused or deprived childhood,growing up tensions and demand for familial responsibility are themain causes of childhood and teen stress. Parents, who are notemotionally available for their children or lack positive coping
mechanisms themselves, often spur stress in their offspring.Stressed children show signs of emotional disabilities, aggressivebehavior, shyness, social phobia and often lack interest inotherwise enjoyable activities. Research tells us that children, whoare forced to live on prematurely adult levels, sometimes becomeoppositional to following the parents` rules (or those of society).Such children tend to respond to stressors with aggression andindignation.Many teenagers tend to become nonconformists and fall prey toteenage depression in response to a variety of growing upanxieties. However, stress induced fears and anxiety in childrenadversely affect children`s performances at various levels.`Points to Follow` for Both Children and Parents:• Talk with your child. Find out what`s happening in his life. Behonest and open with him. He should talk about his problems orwrite them down. Teach him to transfer coping strategies to othersituations.• Don`t burden them with your problems. But, tell children aboutthe family`s goals and discuss difficulties in a friendly manner.•Compliment children when they do well, and don`t forget hugsand kisses.•Use humor to buffer bad feelings and situations. A child wholearns to use humor himself will be better able to keep things inperspective.•Don`t overload your child with too many after-school activitiesand responsibilities. Let children learn to pace themselves. Don`tenroll them in every class that comes along, and don`t expect themto be first in everything.• Set a good example. Demonstrate self-control and coping skills.He can benefit by seeing how you cope successfully with stress.• Get friends` or professional help when problems seem beyondyour skills.Post your article on StressView posts on StressMORE ON STRESSStress
The word `stress` is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as "a state ofaffair involving demand on physical or mental energy". Acondition or circumstance (not always adverse), which can disturbthe More....Stress ManagementStress management is the need of the hour. However hard we try togo beyond a stress situation, life seems to find new ways ofstressing us out and plaguing us with anxiety attacks. Moreover, beit More....Self HelpHandling Stress From CriticismBenjamin Franklin once said: "The sting of any criticism comesfrom the truth it contains." Most of us are most sensitive to stressin the areas where we More....Causes of StressListing the causes of stress is tricky. There can be innumerablestress factors since different individuals react differently to thesame stress conditions. Extreme stress situations for an More....Effects of StressMedically, it has been established that chronic symptoms ofanxiety and stress can crumble our body`s immune system.Irrespective of the nature of the causes of stress—real orperceived—our More....Spiritual and Psychological StressMost causes of psychological stress are perennially related toemotional and psychological disorders. Stressful situations,whether long-term or short-term, can set forth a series of emotionalMore....Gender StressCauses of female and male depression and anxiety might be quitedifferent from each other. It is not known for sure if stress affectsmen and women differently. Generally, as the two genders oftenMore....Stress And HealthStress and health are closely linked. It is well known that stress,either quick or constant, can induce risky body-mind disorders.Immediate disorders such as dizzy spells, anxiety, tension, More....Symptoms Of Depression
When the negative reactions to life`s situations become repetitivelyintense and frequent we develop symptoms of depression. Lifethrows up innumerable situations, which we greet with bothnegative More....Stress At WorkStress at work is a relatively new phenomenon of modernlifestyles. The nature of work has gone through drastic changesover the last century and it is still changing at whirlwind speed.They have More....Social Anxiety And StressAlmost all stressed out people state social anxiety and relationshipdifficulties as their primary causes of stress. Broadly, socialanxiety comes from three major relationship More....Spiritual and Mental HealthStress not only affects our body and corrupts its naturalfunctioning; it also affects our mind and spirit as well. Everyday,each of us goes through stress a number of times—mild or severe.We More....NaturopathySince long there has been a continuous search for newer andharmless methods cure for stress and stress-induced diseases.Various therapeutic methods of Naturopathy are found to minimizethe effects More....Medication And DrugsIdeally, standard pharmaceutical therapy is not indicated for themanagement of daily stress such as those caused by work orfamily-related issues. These are part of life, and we will allexperience More....LifeStyle and Time Management SkillsPerhaps it is time to put emphasis on the `life after birth`. Andmake it as enjoyable and stress free as it can be. Streamlining one`sliving pattern and priorities of life is perhaps the most More....Relaxation TechniquesPranic Healing For StressPranic healing is an ancient science of healing through prana (Qi or`life energy`). Prana is that life energy, which keeps the body aliveand maintains its More....Stress Management Techniques
MassageMassage is an ancient healing art, which works on the basis thatwhen the body is calmed and relaxed, mental anxiety is lessened.Perhaps the earliest mention of massage as a More....Stress ReductionThis therapy employs sound in an organized or rhythmic form todisentangle the stressed out nerves and brain, relaxing the mind-body as a whole. Certain sounds have telling effect upon the stateof More....Alternative Stress ManagementIt is well known that either a quick or constant stress can inducerisky mind-body disorders. Immediate disorders like dizzy spells,anxiety, tension, sleeplessness, nervousness, muscle cramps canMore....Related ArticlesTranscend your stress"Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as toremain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.”-Thomas Jefferson More...A Call To GreatnessThe terror attacks in Mumbai have left the country shaken, comingas they have on the heels of a series of attacks across the country.How can spirituality help us to accept and transcend theperil More...Cool ItStress and anxiety can overtake the best of us. here is a checklist ofwhat you can do to heal yourself and get back to peace andease More...Healthy Mind Healthy BodyOverwhelming evidence proves that the state of the mind is a keyfactor in wellness. a happy, balanced mind leads to a healthybody More...No SweatHandle your stress with these easy-to-practice measures More...Compete WithinCompetition can often be an excessive drive to an illusionary goal.We need to compete, instead, with our own selves, challenging andrealizing our innate and unique potential. More...Upward MobilityWe continue our serialization of the book, office yoga, with a fewshoulder and neck exercises to limber up the most abused areas ofyour body at work. More...Stress Busters at Work
This introduction to a new column on yoga in the office tackles thebasics: your chair, work surface and the right sittingposition. More...How well do you cope with stressRate yourself on how you react in each of the situations listedbelow. There are no right or wrong answers. More...Author of PracticalityAnil Kumar is a people’s author. Writing books inspired by lifearound him, he wants to motivate with fact and fiction More...Dress your stressLife would be simple if our physiological and psychological needswere automatically fulfilled. The course of life does not always runsmoothly. Things happen and our needs and goals arefrustrated More...Stress Management through Sahaja YogaMan today finds himself in a very unique situation of having torespond and tackle a variety of complex situations day in and dayout for which he finds even his multi-dimensional personalityinade More...Ten sure ways for managing stressInterestingly, it is possible to convert stress-building thoughts intostress-busting ones. Here are ten sure ways for managing stress inour life. More...My way to cope with stress..Interviews of celebrities taken by Suma Varughese and SwatiChopra on the best stress reliever More...TIME-TESTED STRESS BUSTERSStress is a handmaiden of modern life. But it is possible to convertstress-building thoughts into stress-busting ones More...Easy does itFind the stressors in your life, learn to cope with them. Imagine astress-free life, create it; think positive thoughts, be happy-that isthe art of managing stress More...Related LinksHolisticonlineThe site contains an exhaustive information you need to managestress. More....The International Stress Management Association UKThe homepage of the association provides you sound knowledgeand best practices in the prevention and reduction of human stress.More....Undoing StressThe site deals with the problem of stress and its ramifications inour life in a unique way. An educative site that teaches you how tolive and understand life under stress. More....
Stress Management and Emotional Wellness PageThe site deals scientifically about the phenomenon called stress,managing stress, maximizing performance and enhancingemotional health. More....MindtoolsThe site has comprehensive resources, which can help you masterstress. More....Directory of Stress Management ResourcesA site dealing comprehensively with the problem of stress and howit can be managed. More....Stress ManagementAn extremely useful site containing thorough research on stressand its effects as well as the techniques to manage it. More....Stress Free NETThe site provides a continuum of wellness and stress relatedservices and tools, including a directory of health and stressmanagement professionals to help you, and an opportunity to "Askthe Psychologist". It provides solutions to stress. More....StresscureDr. Mort Orman`s personal wellness web center that provides youwith comprehensive methods to cure yourself from stress. More....Stress Education CenterThe site offers consultation and training on Stress/ChangeManagement in workplaces,Enhancing Performance,Organizational Development, Maintaining Balance, ExecutiveCoaching and Assessments since 1978. More....FuturehealthThe site offers you informations, articles and products relatingstress and its management that can help you control your stressresponses. More....Stress, Coping and BalanceThe CNN.com page dealing with stress and its management.Contains links to some very useful sites on the subject. More....Information on Anxiety disordersLearn about the symptoms, causes, and types of anxiety attacksand disorders. Find self-help tips and anxiety treatmentinformation. More....Stress DisorderAre you stressed out about stress? Wondering where you can findout more? Then this site is going to be a good read. From thedefinition of stress, to how to control it, our articles will give you asystematic break down of information. The easy-to-read articlesalso delve into stress treatments and Hypnosis. More....Stress and Young Children
Traditionally, stress has been defined in terms of its source (e.g., internal and external) (Marion, 2003). Internal sources of stress include hunger; pain; sensitivity to noise, temperature change, and crowding (social density); fatigue; and over- or under-stimulation from ones immediate physical environment. External stressors include separation from family, change in family composition, exposure to arguing and interpersonal conflict, exposure to violence, experiencing the aggression of others (bullying), loss of important personal property or a pet, exposure to excessive expectations for accomplishment, "hurrying," and disorganization in ones daily life events (Bullock, 2002). Although the research literature tends to focus on the impact of single-variable stressors on childrens development, in real-life situations, children experience stress from multiple sources. Researchers note that multiple stressors interact with one another and can have cumulative effects (Stansbury & Harris, 2000). This digest discusses how children experience and adapt to stress, and offers suggestions to teachers and parents on preventing and reducing childrens stress. How Vulnerable Are Young Children to Stress? Stress is experienced in many forms and varies by the individual, the childs developmental level, and the childs previous life experience. Adapting or managing stress appears to be highly dependent on a childs developmental capabilities and coping-skill inventory. Researchers suggest that children under the age of 6 are developmentally less capable of1. thinking about an event in its entirety;2. selecting from a menu of possible behaviors in response to any new, interesting, or anxiety-inducing event;3. comprehending an event separate from their own feelings; and4. modifying their physical reactions in response to change in stimuli (Allen & Marotz, 2003). Stress can have positive as well as Advertisement negative influences. The younger the child, the greater the impact of new events, and the more powerful and potentially negative stress becomes. Some stress is a normal part of a childs everyday life and can have positive influences. However, excessive stress can have both immediate and far-
reaching effects on childrens adaptability to new situations, even events that are seemingly unrelated to the specific stressful event. Research indicates that the negative impact of stress is more profound on children who are younger than age 10, have a genetic temperament that is "slow-to-warm-up" or "difficult," were born premature, are male, have limited cognitive capacity, or have experienced prenatal stress (Monk et al., 2000). Children who live in poverty, who live in violent communities, or who are bullied in school settings are also subject to more external stress (McLoyd, 1998) than other children. Children who have lower thresholds for external and internal stimuli will find a wider variety of events and conditions to be negatively stressful (Stansbury & Harris, 2000). How Do Children Experience Stress? Specialists have identified two categories of stressful experiences. Acute stress is defined as a sudden, intense onset (e.g., short-term parental illness) and then the subsidence of stressful stimuli. Chronic stress (e.g., loss through death or prolonged separation of a significant person in the childs life--grandparent, caregiver, sibling) is, on the other hand, ongoing and has the most significant and detrimental effects on children, including changing brain chemistry and function, and lowering resistance to disease (Gunnar & Barr, 1998; Lombroso & Sapolsky, 1998). Zegans (1982) theorizes that stress is experienced in four somewhat distinct stages:1. alarm and physical reaction;2. appraisal, as a child attempts to make meaning from the event;3. searching for adaptation and coping strategies; and finally4. implementation of a strategy or strategies. This implementation stage may be a one-time action or may be extended over hours or days. Childrens appraisal of stressful events and their choices of viable coping strategies are different from those used by adults (e.g., leaving a favorite toy at child care overnight may have a negative impact on children who cannot "find" a way to "wait" until they are reunited; this reaction and fear of its recurrence may last for several days). In addition, experts have observed that childrens physical responses to stress are also different from adult responses in that they may be more intense and involve the whole body (Zegans, 1982).
How Does Stress Manifest Itself in Children?Stress is most often seen as an overt physical reaction: crying,sweating palms, running away, aggressive or defensive outbursts,rocking and self-comforting behaviors, headaches andstomachaches, nervous fine motor behaviors (e.g., hair twirling orpulling, chewing and sucking, biting of skin and fingernails),toileting accidents, and sleep disturbances (Stansbury & Harris,2000; Fallin, Wallinga, & Coleman, 2001; Marion, 2003). Expertssuggest that children may react globally through depression andavoidance; excessive shyness; hyper-vigilance; excessiveworrying; "freezing up" in social situations; seemingly obsessiveinterest in objects, routines, food, and persistent concern about"what comes next"; and excessive clinging (Dacey & Fiore, 2000). Sidebar: Children with ADHD, ODD, and other behavioral disorders are particularly vulnerable to low self-esteem. They frequently experience school problems, have difficulty making friends, and lag behind their peers in psychosocial development. They are more likely than other children to bully and to be bullied.How Do Children Adapt to Stress?Theorists believe that these behaviors represent childrens strugglesto manage and react to stressful events. They believe that childrengenerally distance themselves emotionally from stressful situationsby behaving in ways to diminish the stress (e.g., crying and beingupset in order to show feelings of abandonment when parents go towork) or acting in ways to cover or conceal feelings ofvulnerability (e.g., acting out and being aggressive or disruptivewhen its time for toys to be put away or play to stop). With age,children increasingly use cognitive problem-solving strategies tocope with negative stress by asking questions about events,circumstances, and expectations for what will happen andclarification of what has happened (Kochenderfer-Ladd & Skinner,2002).Prolonged exposure to stress and a childs continued use of copingstrategies may result in behavior patterns that are difficult tochange if the child perceives the strategy as being effective(Kochenderfer-Ladd & Skinner, 2002; Stansbury & Harris, 2000).
How Can Adults Respond to Childrens Stress? Assisting children in understanding and using effective adaptation and coping strategies must be based on the childs developmental level and understanding of the nature of the stress-inducing event. Teachers and parents can prevent and reduce stress for children in many ways:Help the child anticipate stressful events, such as a first haircut or the birthof a sibling. Adults can prepare children by increasing their understandingof the upcoming event and reducing its stressful impact (Marion, 2003).Over-preparing children for upcoming stressful events, however, canprove even more stressful than the event itself (Donate-Bartfield &Passman, 2000). Adults can judge the optimal level of preparation byencouraging the child to ask questions if he or she wants to know more.Provide supportive environments where children can play out or use artmaterials to express their concerns (Gross & Clemens, 2002).Help children identify a variety of coping strategies (e.g., "ask for help ifsomeone is teasing you"; "tell them you dont like it"; "walk away").Coping strategies help children feel more effective in stressful situations(Fallin, Wallinga, & Coleman, 2001).Help children recognize, name, accept, and express their feelingsappropriately.Teach children relaxation techniques. Consider suggesting to a child suchthings as "take three deep breaths"; "count backwards"; "tense and releaseyour muscles"; "play with play dough"; "dance"; "imagine a favorite placeto be and visit that place in your mind" (use creative imagery) (ONeill,1993).Practice positive self-talk skills (e.g., "Ill try. I think I can do this.") tohelp in promoting stress management (ONeill, 1993). Other basic strategies include implementing sound positive discipline strategies, following consistent routines, enhancing cooperation, and providing time for children to safely disclose their concerns and stresses privately and in groups. Conclusion Our increasing knowledge about the importance and impact of
stress on young children should be put to good use in reducingstress factors for young children and in assisting children toincrease coping strategies and healthy responses to the unavoidablestresses in their lives.For More InformationAllen, K. E., & Marotz, L. R. (2003). Developmental profiles (4thed.). Albany, NY: Delmar.Bullock, J. (2002). Bullying. Childhood Education, 78(3), 130-133.Dacey, J. S., & Fiore, L. B. (2000). Your anxious child. SanFrancisco: Jossey-Bass.Donate-Bartfield, E., & Passman, R. H. (2000). Establishingrapport with preschool-age children: Implications for practitioners.Childrens Health Care, 29(3), 179-188.Elkind, D. (1988). The hurried child (Rev. ed.). Menlo Park, CA:Addison-Wesley.Fallin, K., Wallinga, C., & Coleman, M. (2001). Helping childrencope with stress in the classroom setting. Childhood Education,78(1), 17-24.Greenman, J. (2001). What happened to the world? St. Paul, MN:Redleaf Press.Gross, T., & Clemens, S. G. (2002). Painting a tragedy: Youngchildren process the events of September 11. Young Children,57(3), 44-51.Gunnar
Children and Stress: Caring Strategies to Guide Children350-054Novella J. Ruffin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Extension ChildDevelopment Specialist, Virginia State University, Virginia Dept.of Education Licensed School Psychologist and NCSPAs adults, we are usually busy as parents and workers and oftenfeel stressed and experience burn-out at times, but would you everthink that children can experience stress too?Most of us probably think that childhood is a time when childrenare carefree, having no worries or responsibilities; yet, studies tellus that many children experience extreme stress and have similarsymptoms as those of adults. Like adults, children often have badfeelings and have difficulty handling their stress. Unlike adults,though, children do not have the means or the skills to understandor manage their stress in appropriate ways. Children must dependupon us to help them. As parents and caregivers we need torecognize when children are feeling stressed and help them feelbetter. We can also help by decreasing the discomfort for the childand, in some instances, by assisting a child or family in dealingwith the situation that caused the stress.What is Stress?Stress is the bodys reaction to a physical or emotional situationthat causes imbalance in a persons life. Occasional stress is normaland predictable in our daily lives. Normal stress serves to presentus with challenges for greater learning and opportunity, such as thestress that we may experience before meeting new people. On theother hand, constant stress can cause us many problems and, unlesshandled, can add to the stress of another situation.Children react in different ways to stress. Some children becomeill. Some may become withdrawn and nervous while others showanger and demand attention. In some instances, development isaffected. There are also some children who do not seem botheredby stress. We often call these children resilient.Stress becomes a problem when the ordinary stress of daily lifebecomes overwhelming. When under stress, there is an increase inheart rate, breathing is faster, and muscles tense up. When there areseveral stressors, the level and duration of the stress are greater.
Causes of StressBoth negative and positive events can cause stress. Family eventsare often a source of stress for children. The break up of a family isa negative event that can cause stress in children. Events such asphysical abuse, separation, rejection, and fights are some othernegative sources of stress. Other events such as a parent losing ajob, or the death of a parent, grandparent, or sibling can createstress. Positive events that cause stress in children include birthdayparties, new pets, and the birth of new siblings. Everyday familyobligations, events, and routines can create stress and tension forthe young child, as in the case of an active family that may be sobusy that the needs of a young child may be overlooked.Parents and caregivers need to be aware of what is happening in achilds life that may affect the childs behavior. A sudden change ina child¼s behavior may be related to stress. Caregivers can talkwith the parents about what is going on in the home.Signs of StressCommon signs of stress are listed below. These signs also mayindicate that the child is experiencing problems other than stress.How do you identify stress from other problems that the child maybe experiencing?First, parents and other caregivers must observe childrensbehavior. Children who isolate themselves from other childrenmay be feeling stress. Also, the child who is easily agitated,irritable, lethargic, lazy, or aggressive may also suffer from stress.It is also important to watch the child for changes in habits orbehavior. For example, a friendly, quiet child who suddenly hasbeen fighting and arguing with his friends may be suffering fromstress. As a caregiver, you notice normal behavior among childrenand you will also be aware when there are changes in childrensbehavior.How should you react when a child changes his or her normalbehavior? Accepting the childs behavior is important. Forexample, it is useless to scold a child for thumb sucking. Scoldingwill not stop the behavior. Also, forcing the child to eat does notresult in the child eating. When you notice unusual behavior, carefor the child, remain close to the child, and comfort the child.Reassure the child that you care about him or her.
Possible Signs of Stress in Young Children Accident Hitting proneness Anger Kicking Anxiety Insomnia Appetite Loss Stuttering Baby Talk Indigestion Thumb Bed-wetting sucking Pounding Biting Heart Grinding Crying Spells Teeth Fingernail Detachment Biting Respiratory Excessive Tract Aggressiveness Illness Excessive Tattling LazinessA first step in decreasing a childs stress is to be knowledgeableand aware of the symptoms of stress. These symptoms or warningsigns include bed-wetting, upset stomach, irritability, nightmares,lying, withdrawal from activity, change in activity level, poor sleepor eating habits, teeth grinding, or decline in school achievement.Recognizing childrens stress symptoms is not easy. It is veryimportant to recognize that it is normal for children to exhibit someof these signs at some times in their lives. Adults need to be alertwhen a child is showing a cluster of these signs or symptomssimultaneously or when no apparent cause can explain why thechild may be stressed. In either of these cases, it is a sign that theadults who are involved in the care of children need to intervene. Ifthe child feels that it is impossible to handle the stress, he or shecan become angry or aggressive. If the stress becomes toooverwhelming for the child, then the child will experience anxiety.If the body remains in a state of anxiety, then physical, social, andemotional damage and deterioration can occur.
The age of the child is a factor in recognizing stress. Children oftencannot tell us what they feel or they do not have the language todescribe the stressful situation. They tend to show the stressthrough their behavior. When you notice a three-year-old childcrying constantly (or more than usual), or an eight-year-old havinga temper tantrum, that may be the childs way of alerting you tosomething or letting you know that too much is happening.Children react differently to stressful events and situations and alsohave different coping strategies. Children can cope through tearsand crying, through tantrums, or by retreating from unpleasantsituations. Children who are around supportive adults andcaregivers usually develop a variety of coping strategies and aremore likely to become more resilient. Many children, however, donot have a supportive environment and do not learn a set ofpositive management strategies.Strategies to Reduce Stress in Children/Helping to ManageStressChildren need help in learning to manage and function with thestress they feel. One means to assist children is to acknowledgetheir feelings. It is important that children understand what theyare feeling, that we teach the word "stress" by letting them knowthat they may feel "butterflies in the stomach," or that their heartmay pound. Let children know that it is all right to feel angry,alone, scared, or lonely. Teach children names or words for theirfeelings and appropriate ways to express them. Show more interestin the childs experience than in the behavior that results. There aretimes when a child just needs a hug for reassurance. In the case ofolder children, help them learn to problem solve for themselvesand come up with management (coping ) strategies. This buildstheir independence and mastery of coming up with options, findingsolutions, or finding other ways to comfort themselves. Forexample, if a child repeatedly bullies other children, lies,withdraws, gives up, hurts or blames other children, the adult canask the child what other ways there are to handle the situation thatcaused the reaction in the child.Promote a positive environment - Praise children for theacceptable things that they do. The experience of stress and tensioncan serve to defeat an individuals concept and confidence. Helpchildren see and understand the positive things about themselvesand that they are worthwhile persons. Listen without judging thechild or the situation; that is, if the child chooses to tell you aboutthe situation that produced the stress. Help the child feel
comfortable in expressing feelings. Assist the child in clarifyinghis or her feelings. You may need to correct any misconceptionsthat the children may have about themselves or their feelings.Set a good example - Children learn lessons from us, whetherthese lessons are positive or negative. Keep in mind that childrenare imitators and may cope with stress in the same ways they seeadults handle their stress. In some cases, it is appropriate toexplain, especially to older children, why something is being done.This explanation can often ease the childs reaction.Help children through stories - Sometimes children cant talk tous about the distress they feel. They may not have the words or theconcepts to easily express themselves. They may feel shy,embarrassed, guilty, or ashamed. If you try to talk to them usingadult logic, most children will "turn off." How can we then talk tochildren about their fears and problems? How can we get throughto them, let them know that we understand, and offer them ways tomanage their fears and find comfort? Stories are a great answer.Children will "turn on" to story time. Some stories are therapeuticstories which help children feel better and cope better with theirfears and problems. The character in the story can be a little boy orlittle girl just like them. They are worried about the same thingsand have the same problems to deal with. In the story, the boy orgirl finds ways of coping with and resolving troubling issues ofconcern to the child. As the child listens to the story, he or she isable to identify with the hero or heroine. There is safety in thestory. The child is free to listen and to learn without risking feelingembarrassed or uncomfortable.Telling children stories about children with feelings just like theirshelps them realize that other children have been through thesituation too. This is very reassuring to children. It also lets themknow that you understand their feelings.Telling a story also provides a way of communicating withchildren. If you are unsure of how children are feeling, you can askthem, "And what do you think John (name of the story character)was most worried about?" The answer that the child gives will be adirect reflection of his own fears, or anger. This communicationabout the story can be very effective because children can be verytruthful and insightful about the feelings and fears of storycharacters even though they may be reluctant when asked abouttheir own feelings.
When a parent tells a story to a child, an atmosphere of warmthand intimacy is created that is comforting for parents as well aschildren. It helps as a parent to know that storytelling is a simple,natural, and age-old technique that can be used to comfort children.If a child is experiencing stress, there are other ways to assist thechild to gain control. The aim is to help the child to relax. Someways are: deep breathing exercises, listening to soothing music,reciting nursery rhymes and finger plays, listening to the rain fall,drawing or coloring. These "stress breakers" can help the childdecrease the level of stress that he or she is feeling. Children canalso learn to harness the positive energy of stress and use it to theiradvantage.Additional StrategiesBe aware of the childs temperament; what seems to be fun for onechild may feel overwhelming to another child.Make an effort to cut down on activities when you see signs ofstress in childrens behavior. Allow children to go at their ownpaces. Structure activities so that children can cooperate with eachother, lessening competition among children.Teach children tricks for calming themselves, such as taking deepbreaths, thinking of a quiet place, etc.Take care of yourself! Children often pick up stress from parentsand caregivers. Keep calm and control your anger.Plan plenty of time for play. Inform children when there will betransitions or changes in the child care curriculum. Plan activitiesto allow children to express their feelings through play. Books, artactivities, puppetry, play and drawing allow children to thinkthrough and label their feelings.Reassure children that what has happened is not their fault.Children often believe that their "bad" behavior caused bad thingsto happen, such as the breakup of their mother and father. Theyhave a tendency to assume guilt for situations that adults know areentirely beyond the childs control.Give children a lot of cuddles, reassurances, and familiar routines,like a bedtime or sleep time story. Giving a child a special toy forcomfort is also suggested.
Helping children to deal positively with stressful and tension causing events prepares them for healthy emotional and social development. This is an important responsibility of parents, teachers, and other caregivers: to effectively guide and help children.Related Readings:Caplan, Ilene. (1997). Kindergarten Program for Children of Separation and Divorce. Baltimore,MD.Elkind, D. (1988). The Hurried Child. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Honig, A.S. (1986). Stress and Coping in Children. In J. McCrackens Reducing Stress inChildrens Lives.National Network for Family Resiliency (1995). Family Resiliency: Building Strengths to MeetLifes Challenges. Ames: Iowa State University Extension.Schaefer, C. (Ed). (1979). The Therapeutic Use of Childs Play. New Jersey: Aronson. UniversityExtension. (1993). Stress and Coping with Disaster Manual. Columbia, Missouri.Stories for Children:Asch, Frank. (1989) Good-bye House. Simon and Schuster.Bradley CoCo, Eugene. (1990). Glow in the Dark Stars, Moon and Clouds. A Golden Book,New York, Western Publishing CompanyBrett, Doris.. (1986). Annie Stories: A Special Kind of Storytelling. Victoria, Australia."Annie Stories" address many different situations, from the first day of school, to fear ofmonsters, to loss of a loved one.Crary, E. (1992). Im Mad. Seattle: Parenting Press.Simon, Norma. (1976). All Kinds of Families. Albert Whitman & Company.Skutch, Robert. (1995). Whos in a Family. Tricycle Press.
Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, re-print, or citationwithout further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to VirginiaCooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and StateUniversity, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. AlanL. Grant, Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Edwin J. Jones, Director, VirginiaCooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; Jewel E. Hairston, InterimAdministrator,1890 Extension Program, Virginia State, Petersburg.May 1, 2009Available as:PDF (636 KB)Other resources in:Child DevelopmentOther resources by:Novella J. RuffinOther resources from: HELPING CHILDREN COPE WITH STRESS
Stress is a natural and normal part of childrens lives. The process of growing up carrieswith it quite a bit of stress. Children begin to experience stress at a very early age, andthey are often more vulnerable to stress than adults because they have not yet learnedeffective ways to cope with it. Parents should, therefore begin helping their childrenacquire the skills necessary to effectively cope with stress while their children areyoung. These skills are very important for children not only throughout their growingyears, but into adulthood, too. How Parents Can Help*Be aware of protective factors. Why is it that some children seem to handle stresswell, while other children do not? Research indicates that there are numerousdifferences between children who do and do not handle stress effectively. Childrenwho manage stress well tend to have good self-esteem, a sense of humor, a perceptionof control over their lives, a consistent family structure (rules/limits), a cohesivefamily, open communication in the family, a warm supporting relationship with theirparents, good relationships with friends and teachers, a religious affiliation, and receiverecognition for their achievements.*Help your children develop an awareness of the signs of stress. Different childrenexhibit different symptoms of stress. These symptoms often depend on childrens ages,personality, and level of development. However, there are many clues that childrensbodies provide that indicate when children may be under too much stress. Such cluescan include a tight throat, sweaty palms, headaches, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea,uneasiness, indigestion, depression, restlessness, frustration, and a change in sleepingpatterns. Other possible symptoms include withdrawal, irritability, aggression,excessive daydreaming, excessive sensitivity, changes in eating habits, and generalchanges in behavior. Parents and children who learn how to recognize these stress
signs have taken the first step to combating stress.*Prepare your children for potentially stressful situations. Parents should take timeto prepare their children for potentially stressful situations they might face. Parents canrehearse how to handle potentially stressful situations with their children. For example,if a child is feeling stressed because of a conflict with a friend in school, parents shouldencourage the child to practice (with him or her) a conversation with this friend toattempt to resolve the conflict.*Avoid overprotecting your children. It is sometimes hard for parents to watch theirchildren deal with stressful situations, since their first instinct is often to protect themfrom the stresses of life. However, stress is unavoidable in life. Parents will be doingtheir children a disservice if they always try to protect them from stress. Children learnhow to cope with stress only by experiencing it.*Try to build your childrens self-esteem. Parents should help their children gainconfidence in handling problems by giving them responsibilities and letting them makedecisions from an early age. Parents should also help their children develop interests inwhich they can succeed. Parents should offer their children a lot of encouragement andpraise.*Provide support and reassurance. Parents should be available to their childrenwhen they are experiencing stress. They should provide lots of hugs, pats on the back,kisses, etc. to let their children know that they are there for them. When their childrenare experiencing stress, parents should let them know they understand that they arehaving a difficult time. Having a warm and supportive relationship with a parent is oneof the single best predictors of how well children cope with stressful situations duringchildhood.*Provide an environment with open communication. Parents should be available tolisten when their children need to talk. They should ask open-ended questions (e.g.,questions that cant be answered with just a "yes" or "no") if their children need helpdiscussing the subject. Examples of open-ended questions include "What do you think
about ...?" and "How does ... make you feel?" One of the benefits of talking aboutstressors is that discussing them brings about increased awareness. Also, parents shouldbe willing to share some of their own stresses and feelings to let their children know(without worrying them) that their feelings are normal.*Make sure your children get enough sleep and/or rest. Children who do not getenough sleep will not have the energy required to combat lifes stresses. Parents shouldmake sure their children get enough sleep every night. A regular bedtime should bemaintained. Getting enough rest is critical to childrens mental and physical health.*Model appropriate coping skills. Children learn by watching their parents. Ifchildren see their parents using appropriate coping skills when they are under stress,they will be more likely to use appropriate skills when they experience stress, too.Parents should try to demonstrate that stress is normal and can be handled in a calmand effective manner. Parents should try to be optimists who view a stressor as achallenge rather than a catastrophe.*Have your children learn relaxation skills. Relaxation skills can help childrenrelease tension caused by stress. There are various specific relaxation techniques thatprofessionals can teach children. Some techniques involve having children use theirimagination to recall or develop positive and relaxing images (e.g., playing outside,being at the beach). Other relaxation techniques involve teaching children tosystematically tense and relax various muscle groups. These relaxation techniques mustbe practiced on a daily basis to be most effective. What relaxation technique is chosenis usually not critical. What is important is that it is comfortable for children, that itworks, and that they stick to it. Parents who think their children might benefit fromtraining in these relaxation techniques should ask their childrens health care providerfor a referral to a professional who is qualified to provide this training.*Teach your children how to handle criticism. All of us are criticized at one time oranother. Increased stress can result when a person has difficulty accepting criticism.Children are often exposed to criticism at an early age. This criticism can take the form
of peer teasing or constructive feedback from teachers and parents. Parents should tryto teach children how to handle criticism from an early age. Children should be taughtthat no one is perfect and that we all make mistakes that we can learn from. Parents canuse role playing to teach children how to handle teasing and unfair criticism.*Provide proper nutrition. Proper nutrition is a very important part of combatingstress, especially for children. The best diet to help children handle stress is one thathas few additives, has the right amount of calories to maintain normal development,and is balanced. Children with poor diets (unbalanced, high in junk foods) should beencouraged to decrease their intake of foods high in fats, cholesterol, salt, and refinedor processed sugars. Childrens consumption of junk foods and caffeine should belimited. They should be encouraged to increase their intake of fruits, vegetables, andwhole grains. Children should maintain a healthy body weight. Parents whose childrenare overweight should consult their childrens health care provider forrecommendations regarding weight loss.*Provide a consistent routine or schedule. Children need predictability in their lives.A consistent schedule of meal times, homework time, bed time, etc., allows children toknow what to expect in their lives. This in turn, helps them feel secure and reducesstress.*Help your children reframe stressful situations. Children have control over theway things affect them. Childrens perceptions of a stressful situation help determinehow stressful it becomes. Parents should take steps to help their children developalternative interpretations of the things that cause them stress. For example, if a child isexperiencing stress because he thinks his teacher doesnt like him because she didntsay hello to him at the beginning of class, a parent can ask the child to try to come upwith other explanations for his teachers behavior. A parent might suggest that perhapsthe teacher was busy thinking about something else and therefore forgot to say hello.This is an example of reframing a stressful situation. The key is for parents to help theirchildren come up with alternative and more positive interpretations of stressfulsituations. Of course, its not possible to reframe every stressful situation. There will be
times when the stress children perceive in a situation is quite real. At these times, it isnecessary for parents to help their children cope with the situation in other ways.*Help your children alter their beliefs about stressful situations. Childrens beliefshave a major impact on their behavior: How they behave, who they choose for friends,what subjects they study in school, etc. Childrens beliefs also determine, to a certainextent, what will and will not be stressful for them. Sometimes certain beliefs lead toincreased stress. In these instances its a good idea for parents to make an attempt tohelp their children change these specific beliefs. For example, children who believethat they must get an A+ on every homework assignment or else they will be a failurewill experience stress whenever they dont get an A+. In such a case, it would reducestress significantly if parents helped their children alter this belief to one that allows forimperfection.*Encourage your children to participate in enjoyable activities. When children areexperiencing excessive stress, parents should encourage them to take part in activitiesthey enjoy (e.g., sports, listening to music, playing a game, art, reading). In order to bestress reducing, the activity needs to be enjoyable and should allow them to take theirmind off their troubles.*Encourage your children to get regular exercise. Regular exercise is an excellentway to help manage stress. First of all, it helps work out tension that can build up inchildrens bodies. Secondly, exercise provides for physical fitness, which allowschildrens bodies to be more efficient at combating stress. Finally, exercise helps clearthe mind, making it easier to relax. Exercise, however, will not be effective incombating stress unless it is done regularly. The specific activity that is chosen is notimportant. What is important is that children find it enjoyable. Also, children will bemuch more likely to exercise on a regular basis if their parents exercise regularly andare physically fit.*Help your children develop good problem-solving skills. When children face asignificant problem parents should take the opportunity to teach effective problem-
solving strategies. They should start by helping their children clearly define the exactproblem. Then parents should have their children generate a list of possible solutions(not evaluating them at this stage). Once a list of solutions is generated, parents shouldhave their children go through each possibility and evaluate its potential for success.Once all the solutions have been evaluated parents should encourage their children tochoose what appears to be the best solution. Parents should encourage and praise theirchildren for the use of effective problem-solving strategies.*Help your children learn how to manage time. Parents should help their childrenlearn how to prioritize activities. If children have a tendency to take on too muchresponsibility, parents should help them learn to place limits on their commitments.Parents should help teach their children how to schedule their time (e.g., specific timefor homework) so they can get things done.*Teach your children to be assertive. Children who are afraid to stand up forthemselves tend to have difficulty handling stressful situations. Parents should teachtheir children to stand up for themselves. Parents can role-play problem situations andteach their children how to stand up for themselves in an appropriate, non-aggressivemanner.*Develop your childrens sense of humor. Children who can see the humorous sideof things and can laugh at themselves tend to handle stressful situations moreeffectively. Parents should teach their children not to take things too seriously.Laughter is good medicine!*Get professional help if your children have continued difficulty coping withstress. There are times when professional help is necessary to help children deal withexcessive stress. Consult with your childrens health care provider for assistance andrecommendations.www.parenting-ed.org