Stress and today’s children.

Don’t you wish that as a child you were taught practical ways of managing every day stress like dealing with frenetic classroom environments, bullying at school, overwrought teachers, busy and agitated parents, exams at school and potentially an abundance of extra-mural activities?  If we had been taught these skills would our own children be less stressed now?

For most children today, stress is a big part of everyday life as they need to cope with our fast paced, media orientated world and pressure from schools to participate in a long list of extra mural activities.  Along with parental and peer pressure, some children burn out.

Society places more value on “doing” as opposed to just “being”. Modern society judges all individuals on the quality of their wealth and status, with very little regard for a person’s physical, emotional or psychological health.  Our fast-paced life dominated by racing from one commitment to another, makes it very difficult for us to be fully present at any one time.  Instead of being mindful of what is happening in our lives we rush around and live life “mindlessly”.

There never seems to be any time for quiet reflection or “taking a breath” and I often hear children complain about having to rush from one activity to another, never having enough time to relax, play, or just “be”.

According to several new studies, the average child today is more stressed and anxious than their peers who were treated for a variety of psychiatric issues in previous generations.  The findings also suggests that higher divorce rates, concern about the environment and less face to face social connectivity is contributing to the stress children (and adults) are experiencing.

Children are developing physically and emotionally and although some stress is part of their learning experience, there is a point at which prolonged stress becomes harmful to children (and adults) and can lead to serious health problems.

Stress becomes a problem when it is perceived as a normal way of “being” and the child or adult finds themselves constantly living in emotional distress.  They have become so conditioned to feeling constantly stressed that this becomes their new “norm”.

Your child could be suffering from stress if they experience the following:

  • Constantly thinking they feel hungry (although do bear in mind growth spurts which cause hunger).
  • Experiencing or say they are experiencing explainable pain, especially if they have seen a doctor but aches and pains continue on a long term basis preventing your child from attending school or mixing with their peers.
  • Sudden development of shyness and loss of confidence in a child, especially if they are usually quite outgoing, sociable and confident.
  • Excessive emotional reactions like sudden temper tantrums and unexplained bouts of crying for no apparent reason, especially if they haven not reacted much like this before.
  • Noticeable intellectual impairment such as lack of concentration and the ability to retain information, especially if this has not been a problem previously.
  • Development of sleeping disorders.  For example; all of a sudden your child refuses to go to sleep (almost as if they know as soon as they go to sleep they are heading towards the next day which they feel they cannot face), or they toss and turn all night and then cannot get up the next morning.

You know your child and as the parent are the best person to detect if something does not feel quite right with your child.   You will have that little inner voice or gut feeling  that will hopefully alert you to your child’s stress levels.   Throughout our lives, both children and adults will have periods of un-ease, where we do not sleep well, we lose our appetite, we eat too much, we don’t feel like going to sleep or we want to sleep all day due to fatigue.   But the important thing is to learn how to be aware of how we are feeling.  So if you are not feeling that great, that is fine if you are aware of it, take notice and take care of yourself.  In other words you are mindful of how you are feeling now and through that knowledge will hopefully make some changes so that you feel better.

Our world is busy, loud, frenetic  and at times feels awfully frantic, but it is also beautiful and full of wonderful places to escape to for some peace and quiet. As the adult in your home, you need to step back and be aware that children get very overwhelmed very quickly (as do we) but they have not yet got the experience and have not yet developed the skills necessary to cope with all this “busyness” and therefore stress can take a hold.  It is up to us to look out for them in this regard and teach them the skills they need to cope.  Skills which are simple and easy for the whole family to learn.  You can follow this link to learn a simple breathing exercise. Just Breathe…

Contact me here to find out about developing your own meditation practice and learning how to facilitate mindfulness in children and teenagers.