CHILDLINE ADVICE: How you can help your child cope with stress

We’re all facing an incredibly challenging time. With everything that’s going on, it puts a lot of pressure and strain on the wellbeing of both adults and children.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 20th April 2020, 12:00 am
Stress is a big issue for children.
Stress is a big issue for children.

Consequently, I think it’s worth learning more about stress, how parts of it can be used positively, and what we can do to combat the negatives.

Last year at Childline, 45% of the sessions we delivered to children discussed emotional health and wellbeing, including topics like stress. Children regularly talk to our counsellors about their experience of stress, and this has only been heightened by the current lockdown.

Stress affects everyone in different ways, but primarily, it is the body’s fight or flight instinct when up against a challenge. Instinctively, when we encounter something difficult, our heart starts racing and our breathing intensifies. This is something we have developed to

Stress is a big issue for children.

overcome problems.

It has a combination of physical and emotional symptoms. The NHS website lists the physical symptoms to include things like muscle pain and dizziness, alongside difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness. If a child is experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to stay patient and encourage them to talk about what’s going on for them.

The symptoms sparked by stress can cause massive behavioural changes and put pressure on a child. Children don’t always understand why they feel a certain way, making the experience even more overwhelming. One girl told Childline: “I’ve been feeling really overwhelmed with everything I do recently and I can’t understand

why. I start to panic and shake, I have to hold back my tears and its making me feel mentally drained.”

Considering this, it’s helpful to know some of the ways you can help your child overcome stressful moments. As they can experience stress in different ways, it’s all about helping them find coping mechanisms that work for them.

The simplest thing to teach a child when they’re experiencing symptoms of stress is controlled breathing. There are a multitude of apps to help with this, but one exercise to try anywhere is breathe in for four, hold for four, and breathe out for six. This helps to increase

oxygen flow and calm down a fast heartbeat, limiting the symptoms of stress.

Organisation can also help to manage stress. Now, children’s routines have changed drastically, and trying to find a balance of school work, family life, and entertainment and relaxation can be difficult.

If we encourage children to visually plan things out, like their school work or daily routine, it can stop them from feeling like there is too much to think about at once. Using bright colours and pictures can also help to boost their mood and help them become more excited for the day ahead.

In some circumstances, stress can be useful. Eustress is a term which translates as ‘Good stress’, which is the adrenaline we feel when doing things like riding rollercoasters, taking part in competitions, and exercising.

The act of doing something like exercising then uses that adrenaline to power the body, instead of channelling it into the symptoms of harmful stress. It can be as simple as skipping, dancing, or jumping - any way of getting kids to enjoy exercise and burn off that excess

energy.

Children and teenagers can always use Childline as a free tool 24/7. There, they can talk to a counsellor, or communicate with other young people on the message boards, and play the online games to take some time out from the stress of the world.

By making ourselves aware of the symptoms and coping strategies, we can make sure that children don’t have to suffer from stress in silence.