Stress Coping Skills for Children

Stress coping strategies, taught at an early age to children, becomes their second nature and can enhance all areas of life as children grow, develop and enter adulthood.

STRESS IN CHILDREN

Children are often overwhelmed by the messages, instructions and choices thrown at them each day. They get bombarded with overwhelming feelings like sadness, fear, confusion, distress and so on that build up anxious feelings. Even though their lives seem to be simple, children of all ages undergo stress that matches their age and environment. The intensity of their stress is no less than that of elders.

Good mental health is essential for good learning. A relaxed child is able to think more constructively and positively. They have the space to step back to reflect on issues and by doing so their behavior is vastly improved.

The source of stress more often for young children is external such as family expectations, peer pressure, performance at school even sometimes play. This is NOT harmful stress. It is normative.

It is not possible to control these stressors to give a child a stress-free life. They occur in natural settings as a daily routine. They form the parameters that could define the personality of the child.

The other form of stress is Life-changing stress. It is more upsetting and confusing to children. The sources could be a dysfunctional family, divorce, moving to a completely new place, death of near one and so on. Such stress has to be handled by experts in the relevant field.

Common stress-inducing factors in young children (aged 4 -10)

  • fear of being abandoned by a significant adult
  • fear of being punished by adults
  • fear of trying something new
  • being bullied or teased
  • fear of toileting accidents
  • wanting to belong to a group
  • fear of the dark
  • fear of losing something or someone special
  • uncertainty

Younger children are not as verbal as older children. So their stressed thoughts and feelings may manifest in any form, most common being:

Crying • Whining • Crankiness • Being stubborn • Tantrums  • Eating problems • Bed Wetting • Thumb sucking  • Always clinging to caregivers • Isolating themselves from others • Staring with no emotion • Sleeping problems • Nightmares • Being more agitated • Reactiveness • Harming themselves or others.

The ability of a child to seek and apply solutions to stressful situations or problems that emerge because of stressors is termed as “Coping Skill” of the child.

“Coping” is a voluntary mechanism and conscious step one takes in face of stress to help manage painful or difficult emotions. Coping mechanisms can help people adjust to stressful events while helping them maintain their emotional well-being.

Developing effective coping strategies during childhood may place individuals on more positive developmental trajectories for coping throughout adulthood

Children need to learn how to tolerate their feelings of anxiety and to develop right coping strategy to manage it.

Coping could be Adaptive Coping (Positive) or Maladaptive Coping (Negative)

Adaptive Coping (Positive)

These are healthy way of dealing with stress. It has much deeper meaning and mechanics in the context of adult stress. For child stress, coping skills are simple strategies that could be blended into their daily life style. These strategies taught at a young age empower them to configure their stress handling capabilities in a mature way in their adult years. This prevents them from sliding into maladaptive coping methods.

Mal-adaptive Coping (negative)

Adults who have a difficult time figuring out how to cope with anxiety, stress, or anger may fall into the habit of relying on a maladaptive coping mechanism. Consuming alcohol or tobacco can often help people feel less stressed in the immediate moment. In challenging situations, if a person starts relying on alcohol, or any other substance, eventually they may become dependent on the substance.

Deep Breathing – Powerful & best coping strategy for children.

Breathing habits like over-breathing, chest breathing, and holding breath lead to shortage of oxygen and energy and are very stressful to the body.

Brain uses 20% of oxygen we consume, heart is also massive consumer of oxygen and muscles get tired and become stiff with oxygen shortage. Children are always in learning mode both mentally and physically. So their bodies consume relatively higher levels of oxygen than what adults do. Poor breathing habits affects body and mind adversely.

It is of paramount importance that children know, practice and adopt right breathing pattern from early age. Deep breathing is also considered as first and fore most stress coping technique.

It would be a challenge to teach kids “Right Breathing methods” verbally and to keep up their interest of daily practice. We have designed few illustrated charts and wall posters exclusively to motivate children to practice deep breathing techniques. You can find them in Home page.

These can be comfortably utilized by adults also for their daily breathing practice.