Stress in children is common. It affects the functioning of many body systems and can cause serious illness. The article describes the causes, treatment methods, and prevention in such situations. Stress in a child is the adaptability of the body’s response, or rather the central nervous system, to various stimuli (physical, emotional, mental). In childhood, this phenomenon is very common. It can have negative consequences. Therefore, it is important to recognize it in time and seek the help of experts.
Symptoms of stress in children
The human body responds to external stimuli from birth. Stress is short-term and long-term. In the first case, the whole body benefits. However, secondly, on the contrary, the damage is almost inevitable.
Depending on the age, the symptoms of stress in a child can be completely different:
- Manifestation of body reactions in children under two years of age … Children and young children describe stress caused by poor sleep, appetite or complete refusal to eat, excessive crying, and irritability.
- Stress in preschool children (two to five years old) … manifests itself in returning to an earlier age (regression): sucking pacifiers, urinary incontinence, requests to feed from a spoon, and more. Tears can occur when circumstances change or new people appear. It is a decrease in general activity or, conversely, a symptom of hyperactivity (do not forget that hyperactivity is an independent mental disorder). Abnormal temperature rise and vomiting occur. Very moving can experience stuttering (temporary or permanent). The child is hilarious, his accuracy increases, and there are often outbursts of anger due to refusal to comply with adult instructions, impulsive aggression, nervousness for no apparent reason, and frequent mood swings (for the worse). It is also an over-expression of children’s fear (fear of the dark, loneliness, death), therefore the child cannot fall asleep.
- Younger student stress… During this period of development, fatigue may occur, and nightmares begin to ache. The child often complains of nausea, headache, and pain in the heart area, which may be accompanied by fever, or unexplained mouth. Parents often notice cases of lying, and old age (starting to behave like younger children). Regularly there is a desire to seek adventure, or on the contrary, the student withdraws, refuses to go for walks, avoids contact with peers, and does not want to go to school. There is aggression towards the people around, as well as low self-esteem, and a desire to do everything so that the child is praised. An inappropriate feeling of fear, anxiety, worsening of attention, memory, and specific memory loss is possible (events that caused stress are forgotten). The child gets constant drowsiness or insomnia; the appetite can either worsen or vice versa increase too much. Parents notice with horror defects, nervousness,
In addition to the above, it is common for children of all ages to adopt new habits amidst stress. For example, they can start biting nails or objects (pencils, pens, rulers), playing with their own hair (girls), scratching, picking their noses, and so on.
With so many symptoms, it is very difficult for an ordinary person (parents, teachers, for example) to recognize a child’s stress. Signs are often seen as a manifestation of any kind of illness, lack of upbringing, or symptoms of the child himself. A specialist can only make a detailed analysis of the results of a few interviews, and psychological tests.
Causes of stress in a child
Children, because their psyche is still extremely gentle and life experiences are negligible, are much fonder of adults under the influence of seemingly insignificant events.
There are many possible causes of stress in children:
- A radical change in daily life … For example, a child is accustomed to going to bed whenever he wants and waking up rather late. And suddenly he has to wake up two or three hours earlier to get to kindergarten on time.
- Environmental change… The same kindergarten or school is the new face of adults who also control the need to come together in a team and obey its laws and so on.
- Changing the familiar environment … Changing the residence of the whole family and moving to a new, unfamiliar apartment, but in the old place, the child was very comfortable.
- Divorce … To divorce for a long or even short time with family and friends, friends.
- Loss or death of a pet … Some children even reacts harshly to the death of an aquarium or houseplant.
- Influence of media and computer technology … Watch TV shows, movies, and internet content that is not for a specific age (violent scenes, murders, even erotic and sexual scenes). Information can be misinterpreted and considered bad. The situation can be exacerbated by sharp shouts or other negative reactions from adults that the child “caught” in close contact or watched an erotic video. This also includes listening to news about events in the country and in the world (about wars, natural disasters, accidents). Too much passion for video games, especially those more or less related to aggression and violence.
- Human effects … The stressful state of adulthood can often reach children. Even in the womb, mothers can observe changes in the baby’s behavior as its mood changes.
- Environmental pressures … There is a great change in climate, changes in weather conditions, and a decrease in the quality of food, water, and air. Children, like adults, can be dependent on the weather. This is especially often noticed by parents of children up to one year of age when they suddenly start to be hilarious, refuse to eat, or often wake up at night with a full moon, for example.
- Environmental effects … Since all processes of the human body, including the central nervous system, are chains of chemical reactions, the causes of stress in a child can be toxic substances in the air and water, poisoning, and radiation.
Effects of stress in children
As mentioned before, stress is a natural and inevitable reaction of the body that to some extent adapts it to new situations. This is how the organism itself is trying to survive. However, a prolonged stay in this state will inevitably have negative consequences for the whole holistic biological system.
Most stress is negative.
This is often shown as follows:
- Predisposition to disease increases … The risk of cardiovascular disease is quadrupled. From 10% to 25% of children with prolonged stay in a stressful state suffer from exacerbation of chronic diseases of internal organs. Even in a healthy child, gastritis and other gastrointestinal problems often develop due to nervousness. Immunity weakens and as a result the risk of infectious diseases increases.
- Sleep disturbance … Even after short-term stress, for example, you may experience insomnia during preparation or after exams. Children under the age of 5, often have the condition of getting up in the middle of the night, the desire to sleep with their parents, and also the requirement to leave the light in the room.
- Psychological problems occur … Development of depression, increased risk of suicide, which is particularly pronounced in adolescents.
- Problems with food, its adaptation … Often children who experience regular stress are overweight (with increased appetite) or vice versa, a terrible decrease in weight (when the appetite is not). In the first case the child “grabs” his problem; in the second he is so depressed that his body simply refuses to accept food.
- With prolonged stress, the body’s reactions become dull … The hormones adrenaline and cortisol stop secreting sufficient amounts. As a result, the child will not be able to respond properly in extreme situations. In the milder version, this may look like a test failure when fully completed. In sports, it is said that such a condition is “burnt out”.
The effects of stress on a child can also be positive. They are usually short-lived and do not cause as much damage to the psyche as negative ones.
Nature has taken care of the development of a protective response to external stimuli, which allows you to adapt quickly. For example, softening of the whole organism through douches is based on this. During sports training, a stressful situation allows you to develop the necessary conditional response. The soul is strengthened; it will be possible to make quick decisions in an emergency. Positive stress is manifested not only by fear or shock due to changes in the normal state, but even if an unexpectedly positive event occurs. Say, if the father returned to the child from a business trip.
Important! After positive stress, the baby’s body recovers quickly and in similar situations, there is no longer such a violent reaction.
Methods for treating stress in a child
Only a specialist can determine the presence of a stressful condition. He should also prescribe treatment for stress in children, which is always complicated. In general, the first thing that a doctor recommends is to eliminate the source of this condition. In most cases, this gives, however, not moments, but positive results. There is no point in dealing with positive stress, as the body does a great job on its own.
Often, in conjunction with the elimination of the source, drugs such as valerian or mother plants are prescribed as sedatives. Your doctor may prescribe the use of drugs that improve the metabolic processes in the brain.
In addition, a collar massage, electric sleep, pine bath, or bath with sea salt is used. Vitamins are prescribed without success (B-complexity in the privilege). It is highly recommended to follow a sleep pattern, nutrition, in some cases, diet, which includes the exclusion of foods that provoke nervous system tension.
Psychological correction of the behavior of children, as well as adults from the immediate environment (parents, guardians, grandparents), is carried out under the supervision of a psychologist.
Note! It must be remembered that it is more difficult to relieve stress in a child than to prevent it from occurring.
How to avoid stress in children
It should be understood that the child will not be able to avoid completely negative situations. He has to isolate himself from the outside world for this to happen. However, it is quite possible to reduce their effects and increase the stability of the nervous system under various stresses.
To do this you need:
- Strict daily routines, rest … First of all, children of all ages must follow the treatment, and go to bed on time. Sleep should be continuous and perfect. Children need to be placed at the same time. Before doing this, water action is recommended. Best of all, if there is a shower. Treatments or hot baths are not permitted. Of course, you cannot eat too much at night. Avoid bedtime games (including video games) as well as exercise, as they are exciting. The same is true of mental stress at night.
- Sports … Various exercises in the morning, afternoon, and evening (but no later than three hours before bedtime) increase resistance to stress. Exercise is usually a great way to relieve stress in children, increase self-esteem and improve the general condition of the body. Walking in the fresh air is very helpful for relaxation after physical or mental stress. They can be both fast and slow. At the same time, it is useful to communicate, ask about health, the day spent, discuss problems, and help to get rid of the negativity that has accumulated during the day.
- Restricted access to computer, television … It is necessary to control the content that goes to the child. Limit or exclude overly aggressive video games, violent movies, and age-appropriate content.
- Preparing for stressful situations … To reduce the risk of negative consequences, for example when a child goes to preschool, psychologists recommend that parents play with their child. This will help to understand that the absence of a mother or father is temporary and always ends with their arrival.
- Proper nutrition… Healthy and wholesome food is also very important for psychological well-being. This has already been mentioned in the causes of stress. And it’s not just about the taste or the feeling of satiety. Through food, the body receives the essential minerals that play an important role in chemical processes. They either cause too much tension or calm the nervous system. For active and influential children who have problems, for example with sleep, it is recommended to add mint, and lemon balm to tea, and drink hot milk before going to bed. In addition, for example, insufficient intake of such an element as magnesium contributes to disruption of metabolic processes in cells, overexertion of the nervous system, development of a predisposition to diabetes, increase in blood pressure, and so on. Magnesium deficiency promotes the use of phosphoric acid in carbonated sweet drinks, energy drinks,
- Taking vitamins at the turn of the season … From late autumn to early spring, the natural intake of trace elements (the same magnesium) in the body decreases. This is one of the stressors. Therefore, it is necessary to compensate for the intake of essential substances by taking vitamins.
Stress in a child is a common and almost inevitable phenomenon. In any case, in the short term. It is very difficult to define, as there are many symptoms that are similar to other diseases in the body. A specialist should make a final diagnosis with some interviews and psychological tests. Treatment is carried out in a comprehensive way using drugs and not drugs. But it is not worth it to lead to radical influence. It is better to participate in the prevention and preparation of the child’s body for stressful situations in advance