Stress is a normal part of everyday life and can be experienced at any age. A certain amount of stress is healthy and necessary in life because it can help a person develop skills needed to adapt to a new set of circumstances or deal with dangerous and frightening situations.
We see children as innocent, happy, and carefree, but forget that they can worry and feel anxious. Their sources of stress can vary from everyday activity to a more isolated event. Stress, or feeling a lack of control, makes us unhappy and interferes with our ability to respond to everyday tasks and challenges.
For young children, a few stressors can be manageable. However, high levels of constant stress can lead to health and behaviour problems and interfere with their ability to function normally. This overstress causes children to be whiny, clingy, irritable, or more prone to tantrums.
What can you do to help?
- Stay connected
Children who develop secure relationships feel safe and secure and know that they have someone who can help them with their problems.
Children must know what it is like to be comforted in order to comfort themselves. Physical contact, such as a hug or being held, is one of the best stress relievers. Research has shown that touch in early childhood helps develop brain pathways that help people cope with stress when they are held.
- Home environment
Children handle stress better when they have a healthy, balanced lifestyle with good food, lots of time for physical activity, play and relaxation, and daily routines that make their world feel predictable and safe.
- Relaxation breathing
Help your child calm down using a relaxation breathing technique. Practice taking big breaths and slowly letting it out. Repeating as needed until a state of calm and relax is achieved. Role model and practice along with children when you are experiencing stress yourself.
- Teach children to solve problems
Teach your child to learn the lifelong skill of breaking down a problem and finding a solution by asking questions. What is the problem? How does it make you feel? What can you do? Which solution did you want to try? How well did it work?
Teaching children how to handle child-sized stress will help them to manage the stress before it becomes overwhelming. Spending time together and ensuring that a child knows that their feelings are valued help children prepare for everyday life situations.
Services related to this information:
- Bridge the gApp
Newfoundland and Labrador’s ‘go-to’ website for mental health information. Bridge the gApp offers self-help resources, links to local services, and invites people to share their personal stories. Bridge the gApp is free of cost and available to every resident in the province. The site is divided into adult and youth sections, however many services are appropriate for both.
- Mental Health Crisis Line – (709) 737-4668 / 1-888-737-4668
A free, confidential service for individuals, family and friends. The crisis line is province-wide, 24 hours a day.
- 811 HealthLine (Newfoundland & Labrador) – Call 811 or 1-888-709-2929 / TTY 1-888-709-3555