Children Have Stress Too

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Find out some of the signals that your child may be stressed. Here are ways to help them feel less fear and more secure. Easing stress is a family thing…

You may notice some changes in your child’s patterns. You may notice a strong shift in behavior or you may notice something small. Like us, children have signals of stress, too. Here are some you may notice in your child:

* Changes in eating: eating less, eating more, loss of appetite, lack of interest in favorite foods.

* Changes in sleeping: trouble going to sleep, wanting you to stay in the room with him, wanting you to leave her light on, afraid to sleep, waking up crying, having nightmares, terror dreams, waking up frequently, wanting to sleep more, waking up afraid.

* Changes in communication: withdrawn and quiet, increased talking and questions, answering in brief one-word answers, saying they do not want to talk, beginning conversation and then silent.

* Changes in behaviors: not wanting to play with friends, not interested in usual activities. Anxiety can decrease the ability to focus, to sit still, and to enjoy normal activities.

* Increased Aggression: Sometimes the fears , frustrations, and feelings of the child are expressed in aggression. The child may break or smash things, including favorite toys. Often there is more aggression among playmates and siblings such as hitting, kicking, and hair pulling. Lots of “no” and “I don’t want to___.”

* Physical Symptoms: nausea, vomiting, headaches, tiredness, rashes, slight fever, feeling cold or hot, sometimes sensations that a bug or spider is crawling on them. Wanting to be held more, not wanting to be touched—often one then the other.

HERE ARE SOME WAYS TO HELP

* Keep life as normal as possible. Children need to feel a consistency, to know that their life is still okay.

* Read their favorite books. Children like repetition and familiar.

* Tell them you are happy they are in your life, that you love them.

* Every so often, simply tell them, “I’m here.” Or “Hi, there.” Maybe you have a wink or smile or special word that reassures them.

* Have some quiet time together.

* Take a news break.

* Play music instead of television. Music can help adjust your heartbeat to a more normal rate, guide your breathing, and still your mind. Those are essential during times of stress.

* Listen to their questions and words. That will help you know what level and amount of discussion to have with the many issues involved in this event.

You may want to sort through your own values, vocabulary, and beliefs. Children bring up issues and questions that often challenge our communication skills. This event has been showered with words about attack, war, Muslims, Afghanistan, hijacking, enemy, revenge, military, freedom, and many others.

These are sometimes complicated subjects. They will listen to your words for information and wisdom. They will observe your behavior your behavior as a model for theirs. What do you want them to learn and how do you want them to behave? How shall they treat others?

As with all significant issues in life, they need us to help them learn and feel safe while they find the answers to their questions. This time of unthinkable events and uncertain outcomes offers an opportunity for you to spend time with your children and appreciate that you are all alive and together.

The bonus of helping your children make sense and go forward, is that you and your children take time to be together. You are the grown-up and so you want to be honest about your feelings while not budening them. As you listen to them; you can get to know each other more deeply.

In creating space for them to talk and be heard about these times, you have made space for them to talk with you again about other ideas, hopes, and fears in their lives. You have let them know that you are there for them in more than just words. Your children know you will listen and support them.

More Help:

If the behaviors and worries your child expresses (with or without words) increase or persist, please contact a professional counselor. If you have anxiety, worries, or any signals of that stress persist, you may want to ask for help, too. Your child needs you to help them stay mentally and physically healthy.