Even though childhood can appear to be a carefree time, kids can still experience stress. With school and social life creating all sorts of pressures alongside exam worries, life can often feel overwhelming for kids. As parents, it’s important to understand that you can’t protect your children from stress, however, you can support them by developing healthy ways for them to cope with everyday problems. Here’s some ways you can start reaching out and helping them cope with their troubles.
Just ask if you feel concerned
Kids can often be very secretive with how they’re feeling, so if you do notice something is wrong don’t be afraid to ask them instead of waiting for them to tell you. Usually for them to open up they just need to know you’re there for them and care about how they feel. Always be sympathetic and show that you want to help and understand what they are going through. If you find they’re struggling to explain their feelings, prompting them with some open-ended questions or keywords in relation to how you think they may be feeling will be useful.
When your child does start to explain their worries or what they’re feeling, listening attentively and calmly is so important. Avoid judgement, blame or giving them a lecture. Instead take interest and be patient with what they’re trying to explain to you. If your kids feel as though their concerns are heard it will make them feel supported and as though they are not alone, which is crucial during a stressful time. When they’ve finished, prompting them for more information is okay, just don’t rush to ask too many questions!
Limit stress if possible
If your child is telling you that certain situations are causing them stress, see if there are any ways things can be changed. For example, your child may be struggling with completing homework as they are attending after-school activities every day of the week. If this is the case, it may be a good idea for your child to do one or two activities and schedule in homework time in place of the others.
Help your child think of solutions
If there is a specific problem causing stress for your child, talk with them about possible solutions or ways to make things better. Instead of just giving your child ideas, encourage them to think of some of their own. This way can help build up their confidence and make them realise they do know how to deal with stressful situations. When doing this also ask questions that make them understand the reason why a certain solution may or may not work.
Sometimes your kids won’t feel like talking about what’s worrying them and that’s okay. Try not to push to get information out of them - instead just let them know that you are there if they need to talk and remind them they’re never on their own. If you can see that your child is having a particularly stressful time, planning an activity to do together like watching a movie or baking a cake will remind them that you are always there.
If stress gets too much
If you’re concerned that your child isn’t communicating with you about what’s causing them stress, or you feel as though their stress is causing anxiety or depression, it’s always worth taking them to your local GP. They may be able to identify if there are any major concerns or if seeing a counsellor will help. These helpful NHS pages also are worth a read and provide signs of anxiety, severe stress and depression in children.