As they grow up, children naturally move through these developmental changes. It does help if we, as parents and teachers, are aware of what is happening and to realise that the concerns of the child will alter as they move through the different stages.
So how a child reacts to an individual stressful event will depend on:
the intensity of the stress
All children will experience stress at sometime (see events that can cause inside and outside stress). We can see that from the pressure from schools, their friends, siblings and families. What is often overlooked is that the outside stress a child experiences, will generate a pressure from inside. This inside stress is real and often has a far bigger impact than the primary source ie. the outside stress.
If we just look for the external event that may be bothering a child, then we may overlook the significance of these factors and their importance. A simple way to illustrate this would be to use the iceberg model. It shows that the effects of inside stress, often unseen by adults, are infinitely more powerful that the external stressful event.
The tell tail sign showing inside stress is operating, is when a child seems disproportionately upset about the outside stress. An example might be when your child falls out with her best friend and becomes tearful and angry, irritable to the rest of the family and starts complaining of headaches.
As adults we may not be able to pinpoint the exact inside stress, but the way we deal with the child can make it easier for them to:
think about their worries
possibly communicate them to us, so they can be talked about.
Here are two suggestions of how to approach the problem:
- Try to think as broadly as possible about what else is going on in the child's life. One easy way to do this is to draw a Stress Map. This will illustrate the significant people or things in the child's life at any particular time.
- This is deliberately not a way of talking to the child but saying things in a general way when they are within earshot. It might seem like you are talking to yourself, but be assured that children will always pick up what you say.
This technique is often used in therapy when a child finds it impossible to communicate with the therapist and we call it Air Talking:
Sympathise with the negative feelings specifically e.g. "It's horrible when friends won't speak to you" or "Oh dear, it seems like someone is full up with feelings"
Make general 'scattergun' comments, as if to yourself e.g. "I wonder if Susy is worrying about the trip" or "Sometimes feeling all left out, makes a person grumpy with everyone."
The difficulty with inside stress is that you may never get to the bottom of it. If the problem persist over time, you might want to ask for professional help to try to understand what is going on.
In the meantime, don't worry! Symptoms can often be alleviated, and the child given real relief through simple stress solutions.
Another benefit of relieving the symptoms is that the child feels better enough to be able to either work out a solution themselves or to talk in more depth about the issue.
So how do you relieve the symptoms? First, you must look at your child to see what the symptoms are.
To find out what your child's stress type is, take a look at our questionaire 'do you worry?' by clicking here
To go back to grown up stuff, please click here