Stress is something we all experience, and children are no exception to this rule. Childhood can be full of many stressors, and their young age and inexperience only adds to the uncertainty kids feel. While some stress is natural, too much can be harmful. So parents are right to be concerned about the amount of stress their children experience.
By most measures, children have more stress in their lives than ever before. Parents and teachers are applying more pressure for them to succeed. They are living more hectic and overscheduled lives that result in more stress and leave little room for downtime or relaxation. Their lives are being monitored and micromanaged more than ever before. And children are more attuned to world conditions than ever before, which brings added stress because, in case you haven’t noticed, our world can be completely bonkers at times. Plus, they have to put up with you every day. That would frazzle anyone.
Children tend to experience a lot more stress than parents assume they do. In one survey, 31% of parents said their child has little or no stress in their lives. Yet only 9% of children reported experiencing little or no stress. So there’s an obvious disconnect between a child’s feelings and parent perceptions.
“Parents do want to perceive things as being ok with kids,” says Alan Hilfer, director of psychology at New York’s Maimonides Medical Center. “Parents are feeling they’re shielding them from this stress, but kids are struggling more than parents are willing to acknowledge.” (Jayson, 2009)
Is stress bad for children?
It all depends. Some stress can actually be beneficial, and kids need stressful experiences in their lives in order to grow and develop properly. Stress comes from being challenged, and being challenged is a prerequisite to growth. It helps them develop all the coping skills they’ll need in the future.
Problems arise, however, when a child’s stress levels stay elevated for extended periods of time (chronic stress) or when stress is especially severe. The type of stress children experience also matters. Social stress is always more difficult to cope with than non-personal stressors. Finally, how stress is resolved (if it’s resolved) and the attitudes kids approach it with has a big influence on how well they cope. All of these things will be discussed in further detail throughout this material.
More information about stress in children
The following information will help parents, teachers, and professionals better understand the stress children experience and how it affects their lives.
- Types of childhood stress
- What causes children stress
- Signs & symptoms of stress in children & teens
- Stress & its effects on children
- How kids react to stress & handle stress
- Helping children cope with stress