Stress... Do children feel it too?

Stress is this century’s calamity. But what are the causes, the symptoms and the effects of stress on our organism?

What causes stress?

Stress is the body’s normal reaction to new situations you are faced with. Stress can sometimes be positive, such as when it is a source of motivation that encourages you to push harder. Nonetheless, stress can often have negative effects on both your physical and psychological health. Your perception of different situations has a direct influence on the way you react and handle stress1.

Many types of stressors3

  • Physical stressors such as lack of sleep, malnutrition and climate changes.
  • Changes in routine and lifestyle.
  • Positive and negative feelings.

Children also have to deal with stress. Getting teased in school, not having someone to talk to or feeling unloved are only a few examples. Other stressors such as parents separating, living in a single-parent or blended family, peer pressure, overloaded schedule, school performances or bullying are all factors that can greatly influence your child’s mood2.

As parents, you can observe certain stress signs in your kids1,2,3 :

  • Irritability/sadness
  • Wetting the bed
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Being distracted
  • Withdrawal from activities
  • Regressing towards immature behaviours
  • Nervous habits (nail biting, thumb sucking, hair twisting...)

Pay special attention to sudden changes in behaviour in your children. These changes can be indicators that something is bothering them.

What can you do?

With kids, establishing a routine is key. Your kids need to feel secure.

  • A good way to reduce stress is to plan daily activities and allot them specific time frames.
  • Avoid being last minute when you leave the house. This way, everyone will be in a better mood;
  • Encourage your kids and congratulate them for their efforts. They will be grateful that you noticed;
  • Take time to listen to your children. They will feel that they can trust you when they need  to talk about their feelings1,2,3.

Also pay close attention to your child’s nutrition. It has been proven that sugar, salt and fat decrease our physical ability to deal with stress.

  • Choose a balanced nutrition including vegetables, fruits, wholegrain cereal and food that is high in protein, but low in fat;
  • Put colour on your plate;
  • Reduce portion size and opt for healthy snacks between meals.

Bad nutrition can harm your metabolism, which generates additional stress to your body.

What can I do as a parent?

Here are some suggestions that could help you better manage stress1,3.

  • Take care of your environment: colour, lighting and noise are all factors that can influence your mood. Arrange the rooms in the house so that they feel soothing. Add plants, odours…
  • Do not stress on things on which you have no control over 
  • Try to solve conflicts
  • Try visualisation exercises to help you face stressful situations 
  • Ask for help! It is not as sign of weakness, but rather a sign of courage
  • Set realistic goals; you do not always have to be supermom
  • Do physical activity, go outdoors, do breathing exercises
  • Eat well, drink water and sleep
  • Take time for yourself, allow yourself a few minutes to do something you love every day 
  • Learn to set your limits and respect them
  • Identify your priorities and put them in order

Taking care of your health also means finding a healthy way to manage stress. Take care of yourself…

  1. Figaro Magazine, octobre 1999
  3. Canadian paediatric society