Let’s face it, the last eighteen months have been pretty stressful for almost everyone in one way or another, but how adept are we at recognising the signs of stress in our children and young people?
Sometimes the signs will be easier to spot, perhaps because they are symptoms with which we can more readily identify, but at other times they may come in disguise. It’s possible that the bad behaviour and acting up that you’ve been putting down to attention-seeking or some such, is actually a result of stress.
Children who are exposed to stress either for long periods of time or to an extreme degree, can adopt high-risk behaviours such as creating conflict with figures of authority or peers. We all know that stress can prevent us from functioning properly and the same is true for youngsters. It’s not a choice they are making, it’s neurology.
While we may be able to tolerate erratic or unpleasant conduct in our fellow adults when we know they are suffering from stress - we’re often a little less ready to identify this as the cause of upsetting behaviour in our children.
How can we help? Well there’s reams and reams of advice out there on how to overcome or deal with stress, and it’s not exclusively effective for adults, children can benefit too, and trying some of the techniques suggested together can help reassure a young person that it’s okay to have the feelings they are experiencing.
Taking the focus away from introspective dwelling is always helpful. Sports activities, drama games, anything physical and relying on complex fine or gross motor skills, will help detract from repetitive patterns of worry. Any activity that involves a family group will add a sense of security, and if it’s something you can do side by side such as cooking or walking, this can also help conversation to flow in a less pressurised way than when face to face. In these situations, talking isn’t imperative but often happens more naturally.
And don’t be afraid to let go - a bit of a dance or a sing can work wonders. Just take a deep breath make a pact to leave your inhibitions behind and share a bit of silliness! Humour is the best remedy of all.