First identify if an issue is present, then work to resolve
Stress can be just has a harmful for children as adults. Since preschoolers don’t articulate their emotions well, spotting anxiety in kids and how stress appears is the first step to eliminating it.
Recognizing Stress Symptoms
Abnormal conduct and changes in appetite or sleep can be signs of a stressed out kid. At this age, variations in behavior and eating habits are fairly normal. But in cases of extreme emotional outbursts or social withdrawal, the child may be experiencing effects of stress with no way to express it. Frequent or inconsolable crying is one of the signs of stress in babies and toddlers.
Separation anxiety is a common form of childhood stress. It can manifest as apprehension during daycare drop-offs, when mom and dad are gone for hours. At home, a child might avoid naps and bedtime out of a fear of being alone and alienated from parents.
Habits like thumb sucking or hair twirling are normal for babies and toddlers. However, by preschool these activities are often coping techniques for nervousness and high stress levels.
Several things can trigger this reaction to stress, including normal development. Potty training and moving to a big-kid bed are major life events that impact a child’s schedule and sense of independence. Other factors that can prompt anxious behaviors are busy or chaotic schedules, parental stress, and relationship trauma (changes in living situation or number of adults in the home).
Tips to Reduce Stress for Kids
Of course, we can’t predict every aspect of our schedule or what life has in store down the road. Still, there are a few things you can do to minimize factors that can cause stress for your child:
- Maintain a predictable schedule with rest periods that they can rely on. Sleep and mental development are easier for kids when the day’s expectations are met and they have time to wind down.
- Talk about major changes like toilet training, or the first day of preschool ahead of time so that they’re excited to try it when the big day arrives.
- When possible, restrict exposure to conflict within the home. Parents and siblings inevitably have arguments and rough periods that toddlers don’t understand. Limiting what they see and hear avoids unnecessary anxiety.
Above all else, kids thrive in structured, predictable environments where they feel secure and loved. The greatest thing you can do to reduce stress for your child is watch their behavior. Vigilant observation will give you the best chance of identifying the cause of their stress.
What factors do you think contribute to childhood stress? How do you minimize them in the classroom? Join the conversation on Facebook.