Stress affects children too, so how can you help them cope?

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New figures just released by the charity ‘Young Minds’ has shown that the number of parents calling a helpline concerned about the stress their children were experiencing in connection with exams has risen by almost a third.

During the past year, 1,058 parents called the national helpline about exam stress whereas in the previous year there only 693 calls. The number of calls to the parents’ helpline about other aspects of mental health also rose by over 1000 calls in the past 12 months.

Stress and anxiety is something that many of us think of as an adult problem whereas children are meant to be happy and without a care in the world. This is simply not true. Children are just as susceptible to the pressures of life as the rest of us, ok so they don’t have to worry about keeping down a job, paying the mortgage or rent and the bills, but they do have pressure and with pressure comes stress.

Children experience stress in connection with school and exams, their friends, what’s going on inside the family home, relationships with parents and siblings and so on and the effect of unrecognized stress can be as devastating on a child as prolonged stress is on an adult if not more so.

How to help your child cope with stress

The first step is recognizing that your child is suffering. Ask yourself these questions: Has your child become withdrawn and quiet? Has their behaviour changed recently? Are they unusually angry, sulky or emotional? Are they getting enough sleep and has their eating patterns changed?

It’s important to talk to your child and allow them to speak openly. You have to listen as sometimes children have difficulty expressing exactly how they feel. Having regular discussions with your child can do wonders for their self esteem and will help to reassure them that all is ok in their world.

Create a stress free environment in the home so that when the children are at home they can relax. Try not to discuss all your worries, fears and anxieties when they are around.

Hearing something on the television about war, accidents or natural disasters can be an intensely frightening experience for a child, particularly a younger child, who might not be able to understand exactly what’s going on. Be aware of what your child is watching on TV or accessing on the Internet and talk to them about it.

If your child does express worries and concerns it’s important to take them seriously and to act upon them, mental illness is not an adult only domain.

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