Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Six Hacks to Reduce Stress among Kids



                                                         


Stress is a reaction to a stimulus that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium. A stressful event can trigger the “fight-or-flight” response, causing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to surge through the body. 
Stress is the sometimes strong hidden cause of Anger among children. This can be from positive as well as negative event however majorly it is destructive in nature due to its unconstructive occasion. Reasons of stress related anger may be, parent's angry and negative behaviours, separation, rejection from peers or parents, lack of trust, perfectionist tendencies, school stress, loss of grandparent etc.
As parents, we should be considerate enough towards ourselves as well as kids. Expecting too much from both the sides is like living in a fantasy World of Alice in Wonderland or Disney World where everything is charming, sumptuous, resplendent and magical. Expecting too much from our kids in areas such as academics, behaviour, socialisation can be unrealistic and unjustified and we might look like an immature parent who is still not ready for truthful parenting. Every child, parent and parent-child relationship is different.
According to Carrie Wendel-Hummell, a researcher at the University of Kansas, there are various factors contributing to stress among parents as well as children. It is not just because of too much of work and responsibilities added towards new parents after the birth of a baby too but also social and peer pressure to project themselves as perfect families within the society. 

Everyone is eager to see each other’s photographs and status updates on Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and make judgements of their good being. Seeing X friend’s vacation album mount’s unseen pressure and stress on parents to provide better support and luxuries to their children.
Tim Elmore, in his book entitled “Twelve Huge Mistake Parents Can Avoidmentions that parents should have high BUT healthy expectations for themselves and children. He states that parents should not be guilty of failing on different as care takes rather they should prepare kids for the real world and its true colours.
Having marital discord or separation from spouse affects the child adversely leading to extremely complicated relationship with the left-behind parent. In some cases, unfortunately, child not only loses the separated parent but also faces unintentional negative and un-genuine side of left behind parent.
Another massive cause of stress can be bullying in school that can cause personality
development failure in both typical and atypical children. A popular child can also be bullied in school, regardless of any reason. Bullying which can be verbal or physical germinates stress, anger along with fear to be accepted among peers.
So there can be infinite reasons of stress among teens and children which can be reduced using appropriate strategies after analysis of exact reason of stress within child. According to Lancet 2007 Global Mental Health Report, the commencement of mental health issues is most likely between the age groups of fifteen and twenty-four, making it a primary time for problems to emerge if parents are not careful. Numbing behaviours like over- or under-eating, cutting, drinking, drugging and, ramping up perfectionistic behaviors are modern traps for our children and teens.
As a paediatric OT, I have seen a number of parents being concerned about their child’s behaviour within the community. A common concern for parents is how to support their children in dealing with stress-related anger, and how to prevent them from resorting to aggression. Many parents are concerned about a number of violence children are exposed to at school, on the television, while watching video games, and in their friend circles.

Here are Six practical strategies which can be used by parents to reduce Stress levels among children and improve parent-child relationship.

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Improve Socialisation: Let your child have a good number of friends. Making and keeping friends reduces stress. This also helps to get rid of anxiety or depression. This supports a child in becoming  well-connected to peers as well as makes them a good communicator. 
Facilitation of positive behaviour among peers helps in establishing cognitive and emotional skills that are required to engage competently. This reflects child to be socially accepted by his crowd and he is able to understand the relevance of gestures, facial expressions and other social cues.
However, this does not mean that parents should not be aware of (Four Ws) where, when, with whom and why their child is going. One should be inquisitive about child's
behaviour in home and outside. 
Discuss with the child that there can be a possible solution to his or her problem or situation. Implementing Problem Solving Approach is advantageous. 
Reassurance is important from parent’s side so that child can trust them and share any issue, for example, being bullied in school or stressed due to a school trip.  He should be sure that my mummy and daddy have a solution to every problem. This confidence among parents will make their bond strong.


Hugs and Kisses for Reassurance: Often children find nothing better than hugs and kisses for calming down and getting support from parents. Hugs give deep pressure (proprioceptive input) to our bones, joints and muscles which help in calming down and
reducing stress level. This helps raised levels of Cortisol hormone to decrease. This hormone is often measured as means of quantifying physiological response to a stressor. Therefore, any reason (bullying, loss of the pet) which can raise Cortisol levels (stress) can be decreased by hugging or kissing the child. 




Stories Make a difference:Telling stories about children with similar problems and feelings make your child realise that he is not the only one to struggle from stress.Discussing problems on Stress Forums or Groups can be a Self-help or joining Stress Help Communities can reduce anxiety and stress. 
Parents may share their childhood situations to overcome stress and anger. I find this
as one, of best ways to change child's negative behaviours. Parents should mention their struggle and hard work to stressed children. 
Sharing own stories will motivate kids to stay calm and think better. 
Watching movies together or telly shows related to the hyper-competitive world of today will support the child to discuss professional issues with parents. Stress due to academics, competition, bullying or grief will disrupt the learning and healthy development of individual physically, mentally and emotionally.



Praise the Child: Appreciation and encouragement help children realise that they are worthwhile doing a particular given task. This also helps to develop self-confidence. 
Notice, praise and encourage good behaviour rather than focussing on bad behaviour. 
One of my student diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome always faced high levels of stress just before couple of weeks before exams. 
On talking to him, I discovered it was high parental expectations to achieve good grades in exams. Rather than being focussed, this young boy had big struggle to concentrate on studies. During one to one session, we sat down with a white sheet and a colour pen of his choice. 
We started listing his achievements and failure in past 6 months. Lastly, it was concluded that his sports, extra-curricular, and Information Technology achievements are greater than his failures This discovered fact about himself, made him feel better and positive. 
Therefore, it’s important to improve child’s self-esteem and confidence level time and again to make him feel affirmative and relevant towards himself.


Charity Work or Fund raising for a cause: Children should be encouraged, to help others (E.g. making the cross road to elderly or differently able) or perform Community Work through charity.
Parents may develop habit of performing, at least one good deed or favour per month
which involves children in charity. This makes a child more resilient. Charity can be to spread awareness about a particular topic or to help for a cause. This can be a marathon for Macmillan Cancer Patients or even picking litter for community welfare. Many charities focus on the environment, for example, work to help people to learn about threats to the climate and too fragile ecosystems. Sparing out time for charity not only improves self-esteem and kindness skills but also gives opportunities to meet and communicate with new people from different spheres. 
Charity begins at home, they can even support the mother in cooking or washing dishes after dinner. This will not only improve parental relationship but also enhance child’s skills on particular task.


Planned and Informed Schedule: Child should be informed beforehand if any changes in family schedule are about to happen, example, if you will not be able to take out a child for planned dining due to a meeting in office it is better to talk to him about it and explain the reason as soon as possible. 
In such a situation parents should be able to console and reassure child about their current situation. 
It is better to persuade them rather than being very straight forward. It is better to ask them what solution can be sorted for such situation.  Change of schedule or routine can be a big challenge for ADHD or Autistic kid, therefore, parents should set realistic commitments keeping child’s expected behaviour and outcomes.