Stress is defined as an organism’s total response to environmental demands or pressures. One of the most powerful determinants of children’s developmental course is the social context in which they live. In particular, experiencing a supportive environment during childhood is likely to foster healthy cognitive, social, and emotional development. Stress may then interfere with some of the major tasks of childhood, such as academic achievement and fulfillment of educational goals.
When you notice stress in a child, one of the best things to do is talk to them about it. Let them know that everyone experiences stress in their life, but there are things that can be done to avoid it. One major cause of stress in children is an overwhelming schedule. Many children today have schedules that would wear out any adult. They have many extracurricular activities such as sports, music lessons, and dance lessons. They also have homework each night, probably more than you had as a child. If you add in any household chores to that, it is enough to cause stress in any child, no matter how well adjusted they are. Take a step back and see how much they are doing and what if anything can at least be temporarily taken away to give them more time.
Talk to them about what is important and how some things may have to wait until they have a less busy schedule.
For example, if your child is taking piano lessons, but is stressed out about it because they are not practicing like they should and performing poorly, try to find out the source of the problem. Do they just not enjoy taking lessons? Or are they so overwhelmed with schoolwork that they do not have time to practice? If homework is overwhelming them, you may want to talk to their teacher. Perhaps they have a learning disability or need a tutor to get extra attention. Perhaps they just need to make better use of their time. Set up a schedule for them that includes both time to do homework as well as time to practice piano if they want to continue the lessons. If needed, ask them if they want to discontinue the piano lessons for a while so they can be caught up on schoolwork.
Sometimes, children just do not want to talk to you about their problems – big or small. If your child does not want to talk to you about what is stressing them out, buy them a journal. It can help them release pressure, but also help them think things through to work out potential solutions to problems they are having.
Good Stress and Bad Stress
The stress response (also called the fight or flight response) is critical during emergency situations, such as when a driver has to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident. It can also be activated in a milder form at a time when the pressure’s on but there’s no actual danger – 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 final exam. A little of this stress (good stress) can help keep you be ready to rise to a challenge.
But stress doesn’t always happen in response to things that are immediate or that are over quickly. Ongoing or long-term events, like coping with a divorce or moving to a new neighborhood or school, can cause stress too. The nervous system senses continued pressure and may remain slightly activated and continue to pump out extra stress hormones over an extended period. This can wear out the body’s reserves, leave a person feeling depleted or overwhelmed and weaken the body’s immune system.
- Being away from home(ages5-7)
- Fear of punishment from teacher
- Worry about getting along with peers
- Worry about school work
- Fear of being chosen last on team
- Divorce of parents
- Moving to new town or city
- Serious illness
• Stress is created by parental pressure to perform and to stand out
among other children. When they can’t rise up to that expectation, or
during the process of meeting it, children may suffer from frustration,
physical stress, aggression, undesirable complexes, and depression.
• Students who are under-performers, develop negative traits such as shyness, unfriendliness, jealousy, and may retreat into their own world to become loners.
• Over scheduling a student’s life can put them under stress. A
child’s in school and after school activities should be carefully
arranged to give them some breathing space. Parents may want them to
learn music, painting, or be outstanding in a particular sport. So many
things are crammed in to their schedule, unmindful (often) of the
children’s choices and capabilities that it puts a lot of mental
pressure on them in an effort to fulfill their parents’ wishes.
• School systems cram students with a tremendous amount of homework,
which they usually have to complete spending their evenings, weekends
and most of the vacations. Unable to find enough time of their own,
students often lose interest in studies and under perform. They often
feel stress by being asked to do too much in too little a time.
•Teenage depression or growing up tensions add to the academic pressures. If unable to adapt to the transition and change, students often carry enormous amount of anxiety, negative personal traits and can suffer from massive attention problems.
It is important to keep a track of how much your kids can take before the pressure gets to them. Making sure they achieve their potential shouldn’t come in the way of leading a good, healthy life.