Posted by: SDN Pondok Bambu 10 Pagi | August 10, 2009

Helping children through stressful times

“”Doni”” was a healthy toddler, but since beginning elementary school he often suffers from a fever or headaches. It turns out that he gets sick because he is stressed.

Like adults, children also feel stress. In Doni’s case, it happened because he had to study too hard, not only at school but also after school, when he took private math, English and computer courses.

There is nothing wrong with studying hard. But studying too hard can be dangerous, especially if it goes beyond a child’s capabilities.

Unfortunately, some parents are not aware of this. They force their children to study harder and harder. They even make them to take courses after school for a “”good”” cause: to help them reach the top of their class.

In other words, children take courses not necessarily because they have difficulty in school, but because their parents want them to be better than other students.

Before sending children to a course, it is therefore important to consider whether they are really interested in the subject. Parents should also take into account their children’s aptitude. Students in a math course, for example, might be able to solve problems at a high school level, but this is not without consequences.

“”The children might be too tired and deep in their heart they might feel tortured,”” said Sr. Vincentia, the principal of Tarakanita 2 elementary school in South Jakarta. “”Because they are stressed out, the children may also become sick.””

Sr. Vincentia, who has been teaching since 1976, says many parents send their children to different courses because they do not have enough time for their kids. In many cases, the parents of the children in these courses both work outside the home.

They are worried about the children because they cannot monitor their activities while they are at work. So they transfer the task to these courses.

“”Such children usually lack attention from their parents. Parents can’t just leave it to teachers at these courses; they should pay more attention to the children,”” Sr. Vincentia said.

Sr. Vincentia said parents must consider the health of their children and not put too much work on their shoulders. Children also need time to play, which is important for their development.

In a way, the need to “”play”” can be accommodated in extracurricular activities at school, where students can choose activities that meet their interests, like music, singing, dancing or sports, or at courses outside of school. If they enjoy the subject, this can help them get rid of the built-up tension or boredom after a day of school.

Still, children need their own time to play freely so that they can really explore their interests, creativity and imagination without any pressure. Playing can be as important as studying. All studying and no play will make a dull pupil.

Generally, childhood stress has many sources. Both positive and negative events may contribute to the stress a child experiences. When an extra demand is placed on a child’s ability to cope, stress occurs, according to Patricia H. Holmes, an expert at the Family and Consumer Sciences at Ohio State University.

For many children, stress, comes from common changes, such as: starting school or child care, birth of a new baby, illness, separation of parents, divorce, change of parent’s employment, moving to a new location, or death in the family.

Recognizing that stress exists and ensuring that basic physical needs are met is important. “”Rather than trying to shield children from all stress, provide them with basic coping skills and resources to prepare for the future challenges of life,”” she writes in her article tips posted at the university’s website .

In her article, she also highlights several major symptoms that need to be monitored to find out if a child is under stress. They, among others, include;

– Change is a natural part of the development of children. However, no two children experience change in exactly the same way. Having a positive relationship with both parents or a significant adult can be the beginning of a support system for your child when stress occurs.

– Look for behaviors that are not the norm for the child. Noticeable emotional, social, physical, and intellectual changes, whether positive or negative, may be a signal to check out the possibility of stress as a factor.

– Emotionally, a child under stress may appear more fearful, sensitive, tense, aggressive, greedy, angry, restless, and/or irritable. If the child does not know why he or she feels this way, stress could be a factor.

– Socially, a child under stress may be more aggressive or withdrawn. Both of these symptoms can lead to feelings of isolation, which may increase stress levels.

– Physically, children under stress may be more prone to accidents, illness, ulcers, and/or headaches. They may have lower energy levels, trouble with constipation, or diarrhea even though they are healthy. They may bite their fingernails or grind their teeth during sleep.

– Intellectually, children under stress may be easily distracted or restless. They may have difficulty concentrating or making decisions. Their expression may seem dull or vacant. They may be preoccupied with images of monsters or other threats and/or daydream more than usual.

Holmes also offers several ways to help young children through the stressful times, such as;

– Set realistic expectations according to your child’s developmental level.

– Contribute to your child’s positive self-esteem by providing encouragement.

– Nurture and cherish your children. Say “”I love you.”” Let them know you are there for them.

– Verbally recognize positive behavior. When unacceptable behavior occurs, redirect your child by stating the options. Help your child find acceptable ways to express negative feelings.

– Reduce family conflict. Interact positively with each other and with your child.

– Take the time to develop mutual respect and trust. Give your child a chance to make choices when appropriate.

– Listen to what your child is saying. Notice your child’s body language. Then take time to talk with your child.

– Spend time together. Interact with your child. Make use of each opportunity to share time, heritage, thoughts, and experiences.

– Allow your child to help you when appropriate. Be prepared for the task to take longer.

– Discipline using logical consequences. Limit “”time out.”” Above all, be consistent.

– If your child is having difficulty adjusting, limit additional life changes when possible.

– Remember the value of laughter.

– Seek professional help for your child and/or yourself when needed.


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