Jul 03 , 2020
There’s more to a kid’s life than just playing in the sun or munching on cookie dough. Babies, toddlers, and little kids can and do become stressed for various reasons. Preschoolers might be frustrated with mean classmates or teachers, while babies and toddlers may have a hard time coping with a new caregiver.
Little kids don’t have the necessary skills needed to explain stressful feelings yet. They’re more likely to show their distress through actions and behavioral changes than words. Because of this, many parents and caregivers may have a hard time recognizing and alleviating stress in their kids. Here are some tidbits to help you manage your little one’s stress.
What causes stress?
Babies and little kids are just as prone to negative emotions as everyone else. Even though your little one doesn’t have to deal with taxes or savings, he can still fall victim to stress and anxiety for various reasons. Here are some common causes of stress in childhood.
1. A Lack of Attention and Affection
Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are all very likely to feel stressed if they don’t have any strong emotional bonds with their caregivers. They may end up crying or showing distressed behavior due to their feelings of stress and abandonment. Stress levels in babies can also worsen if no one feeds them, bonds with them, or attends to all their basic needs.
Sick days are never fun for anyone. Babies and little kids often get stressed because of pain from indigestion, constipation, and various other illnesses. Besides pain, difficulties breathing, sweating, discomfort, and other symptoms of childhood illnesses can also become a great source of stress for any kid.
3. Separation Anxiety
Growing toddlers and babies will have to deal with separation anxiety at some point in their lives. It’s normal for kids to experience some stress when they need to say goodbye to a parent or spend time in a new day care. Even if you don’t need to leave the house, your baby can still feel stressed if he’s left all alone in his crib or play pen for way too long. When separation anxiety isn’t addressed properly problems with clinginess, tantrums, intense crying, and dependency may also begin to occur.
4. Sudden Changes
Kids at any age thrive on routine. When a child is forced to adapt to different routines or new ways of daily living, stress and anxiety can begin to take hold. Changes that may disrupt an established routine, such as the arrival of a younger sibling or a new diet, can very much become a source of stress and frustration for young kids.
5. Scary Images
Scary pictures aren’t just limited to horror or action flicks. Even the coverage of a disaster on the news is enough to rattle a carefree toddler. The same can also be said for cartoons and movies featuring slapstick violence or fighting. Little kids are very likely to feel stressed when they watch scary or violent things on television and on the computer. Commercials, dramas, and other media with lots of intense yelling and screaming may also stress out your child.
Although little kids like to play and run around, they don’t really enjoy doing too many tiring tasks back-to-back. Your child may feel incredibly stressed if he’s forced to travel to many unfamiliar places, walk around for several hours, endure intense heat or cold, and do many other exhausting tasks all in one day. Preschool-aged kids may also feel very stressed if they’re forced to do homework or sit still for way too long.
7. A Loud and Unfamiliar Environment
Not every child is a born traveler. Babies, toddlers, and little kids may feel stressed if they’re suddenly brought to a new and unfamiliar location. Stress levels may also worsen if kids don’t have a caregiver or parent to guide them around new places.
Loud noises may also be a source of stress for young kids. Honking cars, yelling neighbors, blaring toys, and anything else that can make noise is sure to be a source of stress for your little one. Babies and very young kids are also very likely to cry out of distress if they have to watch friends and family argue right in front of them.
How can I tell if my child is stressed?
Behavioral changes are usually a good sign of stress in young kids. Toddlers and preschoolers dealing with negative emotions may act out, throw tantrums, experience bedwetting, stop sticking to bedtime routines, and demonstrate other changes in behavior. Some kids may get stomach aches or other physical ailments due to stress, while others will have trouble keeping up with school.
Changes in social behavior may also occur due to stress. Little kids may start to act agitated with their playmates and siblings. They might also become sullen and withdrawn. If your child suddenly stops showing interest in spending time with you and other people, he could be feeling stressed due to bullying or other reasons.
Other sudden changes in behavior to watch out for include intense clinginess, a sudden defiance of authority, regression, and aggressive behavior. Kids who feel overwhelmed with anxiety and discomfort may begin to cope in unhealthy ways. As such, it’s important to find out what they’re dealing with and help them manage their negative feelings as soon as you can.
How do I help my child cope with stress?
Coping with stress at any age is never easy. You can help your child navigate his own feelings and deal with an unfamiliar world with these simple strategies:
1. Address their feelings
Talking things out is more therapeutic and relaxing than you think. When your little one screams because of a cockroach or because he doesn’t want to go to preschool, stop for a moment and talk things out with them. Let them know that you understand how they feel and provide reassurance the best way you can. Words like “We can do this together” or “I’m proud of you” have the power to comfort your little one even in the darkest of times.
2. Let them know that mistakes are okay
Pixar’s first rule of storytelling is that you admire a character for trying more than for their successes. Your little one will enjoy school more if they aren’t pressured to become bigshots right away. Let your child know that mistakes are okay and that they shouldn’t give up just because things don’t always go as planned. Encourage your child to keep trying things even if they don’t get things right on the first try. He will have an easier time overcoming challenges if he knows you’ll support him no matter what.
3. Be a great source of love and support
A few hugs, kisses, and supportive words can go a long way. Don’t be afraid to show some affection when your child is having trouble solving problems and coping with something new. Offering help and providing comforting words will reduce your child’s stress and build his self-esteem. When your child knows that he has someone to back him up during troubling times, it becomes much easier for him to accept change and face new challenges.
4. Stick to routines
Routines help toddlers feel comfortable and in control of a situation. When helping your child cope with separation anxiety or other sources of stress, make things as consistent as possible. Come up with a schedule for feeding, changing, and naptime that your child can easily cope with. Before doing more strenuous activities like walking in the park or saying goodbye before work, make sure that your child is well-fed, well-rested, and in a more relaxed state of mind. Once your child has gotten used to a daily routine, you can then introduce new activities like potty training or reading time.
5. Give them time to breathe
Hunger and exhaustion are both pathways for stress. Don’t forget to give your child enough time to rest, eat, and sleep before bringing them to the park or mall. Instead of having your child do activities back-to-back, allow them some time to breathe, watch the clouds, and rest their minds. Mental exhaustion is just as difficult to deal with as physical exhaustion, so do avoid forcing your child to deal with more than they can handle. If you need your child to practice his handwriting, do it when he isn’t hungry or exhausted from doing other tasks.
6. Be a good role model
Kids tend to act out the behavior they’re most exposed to. If your little one watches you crumble under stress every day, he isn’t very likely to cope with his own stress in a healthy manner. When you feel angry, irritated, or stressed, don’t act out in front of your child. Instead, adopt healthier coping mechanisms or find a spot where you can vent your feelings privately. Children feel more confident and comfortable when their caregivers act nurturing and level-headed, after all.
7. Watch for signs of illness
If your child is acting less energetic or more irritable than usual, they could be dealing with an illness. The best thing you can do in this scenario is to watch for other symptoms and alleviate any pain or discomfort right away. Your child will have a much easier time recovering from illness if you keep him hydrated, give medication as prescribed, and attend to his needs as best you can.
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