Often when we feel overwhelmed with stress, we go back in the past and reflect. We miss our golden days of childhood.We think of those days with fondness, miss the free and carefree times. We feel like becoming kids again.
But the truth is that at no age are we free of stress and worries. It is just that with time, we move on to newer situations and every new stressor seems worse than the previous one. Children stress out too, some more than the others.
Simple things like a test in school, a Physical Training class or poem recital could mean a lot of stress for the little ones.
The desire to meet the expectations of parents or teachers also creates tremendous pressure on the children. They are eager to do well at all the times and the smallest failures can upset these kids immensely.
Peer groups are difficult to manage. In childhood, the social maturity is not sufficiently developed to handle day-to-day conflicts. Trivial fights or comments from classmates and friends can lead to a long-lasting impact on the vulnerable minds. They get easily influenced by their friends.
Elder siblings also play a major role. Some act as mentors, some as bullies. Some cause damage unknowingly, some are plain indifferent.
Life is full of new things and childhood is a fast-track learning lesson. Every other day, there is something new a child has to do. Meet a new kid, learn a new subject, try to dodge a ball differently or ride a bicycle without side wheels; there is too much to learn. These cause anxiety and may make the child nervous.
Performance pressures, technology, precocity, media influences, etc. are some of the other factors that add to the stress in childhood.
Watch out for subtle changes in moods and behaviour. With adults, it is easier to identify the stress and hence rectify it. But with children, it is quite a challenge. Most of the children are themselves unaware of the stress they are facing, they don't understand why they are feeling sad or angry or fearful. They are just not at ease.
Inordinate crying or screaming is a common sign. Being withdrawn, aloof and quiet is another way by which kids express their tensions. Physical signs can be seen in basic physiological changes - in sleep patterns (oversleeping or inability to sleep), eating habits (not eating or eating too much), frequent aches and pains, especially digestion disturbances and headaches, etc.
Managing childhood stress
Pay attention to your child. Listen to what he/she is saying, but also try to listen to what he/she is not saying in words, although only in action.
Help the kids open up to you, spend quality time with them and talk to them about everything under the sun. Be well connected with their school teachers and parents of their closest friends.
If the need be, please don't hesitate to reach out and seek professional help from psychologists and child counsellors.
"One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood." - Agatha Christie