I was stunned when my six-year-old came up to me crying because she was “so stressed.” What on earth could have caused my bubbly, bright-eyed little girl so much stress? Come to find out, it all centered around a BFF bracelet and a dramatic take-back. Girls can be so cruel.
As first grade progressed, though, it seemed that every day my daughter came home stressed or upset about something, mostly always socially related. This escalated to the point that it began detrimentally impacting her health.
Parents, we need to figure this out. What is causing our children so much stress? A study reported on by the American Psychological Association indicated that parents have a significant disconnect in what we perceive as stressful for our children and what is actually the case. In fact, one in five children report significant worrying, while only eight percent of parents think that their children are experiencing stress.
The specific factors contributing to our little ones’ stress vary greatly: academic pressures, social relationships, home dynamics, finances, traumatic life events, etc. The importance of determining and correcting these components is universally urgent though.
The Physical Component
We all know that being physically active is good for your body, but it is also beneficial for your mind and emotions. Much of the social environment our children are growing up in today takes away the physical component. Not only has physical education been reduced in schools, but once kids get home, sedentary technology consumes their free time. Without reaping the health benefits and endorphins from physical activity, there becomes a definite correlation between stress and childhood obesity.
The Pressure Component
I’m not sure that we as parents fully comprehend the amount of pressure we are placing on our kids. In sports, we have them practicing three times a week with games all weekend. In school, we are pushing academics and testing at the expense of playtime and the arts. At home, we are go-go-go with activities filling every minute of the day. As adults, this may be manageable and even a preferred way of living. However, kids do not always process things the same way, and this amount of pressure can add overwhelming stress to their little lives.
The Parent Component
With 24 percent of adults saying they deal with extreme stress, we must evaluate how this is impacting our children. Psychologist Katherine Nordal states, “Even though children know when their parents are stressed and admit that it directly affects them, parents are grossly underestimating the impact that their stress is having on their children.” If you think your children are living a stress-free life but YOU are not, then they are still experiencing the negative implications of your stressful life.
I remember back when my daughter was a two-year-old, and I was having a particularly busy day with work. I was distracted from her, so she grabbed my arm and looked right at me and said, “Mommy! Stop everything and hold me!” That moment in time was a life-changer for me.
That’s exactly what we as parents need to do. We need to pause our lives to not just talk with our kids, but to truly listen to what they’re saying. Maybe it’s time for a day to play hooky. Maybe they just need a hug that isn’t rushed. Or maybe they really need a shift in their day-to-day lives to help take off the pressure.
If you feel your child does need a lifestyle change to help reduce stress, consider online learning as an option. Oftentimes, removing your child from a stressful situation and providing more one-to-one time together is exactly what is needed to help bring that sparkle back into their eyes!