Do you remember searching for four leaf clovers in the grass when you were a kid? Making dandelion necklace? Building forts with old cardboard boxes? What will your kids remember? Sitting in the back of a minivan? Ordering dinner at drive -through? Being shuttled from activity? More importantly, how will it affect their mental and physical health?
Emergency doctors are noticing more and more children coming into emergency rooms with racing hearts, sweating, feeling like they’re going to die, etc… all adult symptoms of anxiety and stress.
Common children stressors include: problems at home or school, parental conflicts, family money problems, health problems, changes to routine, distressing world events, and social problems, such as teasing and bullying.
Children often say “the morning rush hour stresses me”: I have to eat quickly, I have to get dressed fast, brush my teeth quickly, then pack my stuff!….
Academic stress or competitive sports can be healthy for children but it depends on how children manage the stressors and their sense of control. “If the stress is something over which they have no control, and that could be anything from a certain disaster to problems in the family, the results can be long-term physical and psychological health effects.
Signs that a child might be experiencing undue stress are:
” Recurring headaches, tummy aches or neck pain
” Increased irritability, sadness, panic, anger
” Trouble relaxing or sleeping
” Lethargy, daydreaming, withdrawal from activities
” Excessive energy or restlessness
” Reverting to less mature behaviour
” Nail biting, hair twisting, thumb sucking or sighing deeply
” Friend trouble
” Behavioural problems, such as biting, kicking, poor listening, restlessness, acting out, impulsiveness, poor school performance, whining, crying, and fighting.
Although there’s more research regarding the health effects of stress on adults, there’s no reason children wouldn’t experience similar effects.
What parents can do is often too simple, but due to their own stressors and busy lives, it often becomes challenging or pushed to the side:
1. Stop, look, and listen! This is one of the most effective and simplest strategies: really look at the child and seeing what they are doing, whether it’s darting eyes or raised shoulders…. and really listening to their concerns while a connection is established.
2. Help kids cope: the best defence against stress is a healthy balanced lifestyle that includes physical activity, quiet time and relaxation techniques, with a primary emphasis on affectionate parents who are good listeners.
3. Be a good role model. Parents are terrible stress models for kids. “Where’s the balance that we’re modelling for kids as we answer cell phone calls in the middle of soccer games or we bring briefcase of work on holidays?
Helping children gain a sense of control through effective problem solving and decision making are great strategies for stress management. But it’s important that parents first emulate the behaviour. Many professionals encourage parents to share their mistakes and challenges with their kids; this is an excellent and efficient way to teach them to problem solve when, for example they hear ” I blew it at work today and this is what I’m going to do to retrace my steps”
4. Play with your kids: Above all, parents need to play with their kids. “Get to know your kids and let them get to know you.” It’s the only way parents can determine if stress is a problem in their child’s life.
Some of the most important nutrients to help children cope with stress are the ones that strengthen the adrenal glands (stress glands):
” Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)-helps the adrenals function adequately
” Vitamin C-is vital for proper functioning of the adrenals
” L-Tyrosine (amino acid)-relieves excess stress put on the glands raw adrenal extract (adrenal glandular)-helps rebuild and repair the glands
” Coenzyme Q10-carries oxygen to the glands
” Multi vitamin-mineral complex-contains nutrients needed for correct functioning of the body
Naturopathic medicine offers many other therapies for reducing stress caused by the beginning of school, such as: botanical medicine, acupuncture and chinese medicine,homeopathy,etc.