In fact, stress affects all of us - including children. Doctors estimate that nearly half of their patient's physical and mental problems are attributed to stress, and this applies to children as well. The causes of these stresses are so numerous that it would be almost impossible to compile a list detailing everyone of them, however we can learn a few valuable lessons by looking at ways in which we, as parents put our children under stress - often without knowing it.
The Pressure to SucceedNever before have children been under quite so much pressure to succeed as they are today. By the time the child reaches an age of between 5 and 7, the pressure to do well at school is already present. This increases, and by adolescence they are expected to make decisions which will affect the rest of their lives, such as what subjects to take and which career to follow. And this is only on the academic side - what about the pressure to do well in sports? I've seen parents forcing 3 year olds onto an ice-rink in the belief that fame and fortune begins at a young age, and even very young children crying because of losing a match or allowing the prize to be awarded to someone else.
Why do we do it?
The Pressure to MatureVery few children are afforded the opportunity of enjoying a totally carefree childhood without the pressure of growing-up. Some, especially when both parents work are often expected to care for younger siblings, not mentioning that at the age of 10, they have to care for themselves as well. Then there is the added pressure on children in a single-parent environment. Many times, these children are treated as equals, where shared responsibilities, support, comfort and general counseling is insisted upon.
Those deprived of their childhood in this way are 'forced' into coping with huge responsibilities - many of which, we as adults find intolerable. This is done, even while they themselves are struggling to deal with their own battles, let alone the mental, emotional and physical upheavals of puberty.
The Battle of the BoxThe television set was a wonderful invention - it provides us with up-to-date news and affords us that much needed break after a hard days work. The sad part, is that many parents abuse these luxuries through the convenience of 'electronic-babysitting'. We've all used the television set to entertain the children whilst we carry on with a chore, but a huge amount of parents actually place their children in front of the screen, leaving them there for hours on end. You're probably thinking to yourself "My child enjoys watching TV", yes I'm sure she does, but will her addiction eventually result in her preferring time with the telly instead of quality time with you?
If this is of absolutely no consequence, then one should consider the agonies many children endure through watching programs of violent and sexual nature - these are not necessarily restricted to programs for adult viewing - many of the children's programs being screened contain scenes that require parental guidance, no matter how child-like they may seem to us.
Unconditional Love?"Mary, if you loved me, you wouldn't do that" or "I bet Peter down the road doesn't treat his sister like that". These phrases are means of manipulating your child through guilt, ways of getting what you want through making the child feel guilty. Often the results prove more effective than shouting or screaming, but do we realize the enormous amount of stress these sayings can produce? How do we feel when someone mocks our appearance or compares our downfalls with the success of others?
The Results .......
Neck pain, tension headaches, depression, rage, sleeplessness - these symptoms can be expected when we're under pressure, but what about children? Well, stress produces many different symptoms in children, some specific and others rather vague, therefore the following list will act merely as a guideline and introduction to this diverse subject:
- Abdominal Pain
- Extremely accident prone
- Thumb-sucking (over the age of 4 years)
Helping your childThe first step in helping your child under these circumstances, would be to do a little soul searching yourself:
- Do you expect too much from your child?
- Do you praise more than you criticize?
- Do you practice equality between your children?
- Does your child have enough free-time, or is he always involved in competitive activities?
- Does your family enjoy enough quality time, doing things together, or do you tend to move in different directions?
- Are you involved enough to know the names of each of your child's teachers?
- Are you placing too much emphasis on succeeding?