It is important for parents to realise that children can suffer from stress. Parents are often very busy and get stressed with work, family, finances etc and can feel that these are very important and that any stress a child has will not be that much of a worry. This is understandable as a child will have no experience of work pressure or the worries of being able to provide for a family. However, it is also extremely important to realise that everyone has different stressors and just because they are stressed because their favourite TV program is not on, it does not mean that they feel any less distressed than you do if you feel your job is threatened. We cannot measure other peoples stress and so need to empathise with their distress however trivial it might seem to us. By doing this when they are young, they are more likely to continue to talk to you about their stress as they get older and it is important that they know they can come to you for help.
Listen to Them and Empathise – So when your child is in distress talk to them. Ask them what is bothering them and empathise with them. You may not be able to help them but just by listening they will know that someone is supporting them. If you can, explain things to them to help. So, if they are upset that they cannot watch their favourite TV show, explain the reason – which might be that it isn’t on at the moment or whatever. Explain to them that you understand that they are upset and that should help them to feel better. It can be difficult giving advice though as parents will never fully understand the situation. The way we would deal with situations will be very different to how they can, particularly in school. School will be very different to when parents were there and so things that may have worked then, may not work now. It is also a long time since parents went to school and they may not be remembering things properly. So be sure to listen hard and do your best to understand. It is also important to stay calm and not rush them as it can be difficult to express your emotion or even to get to grips with them that easily.
Offer Them Some Coping Techniques – It can be useful to give children ideas on how to cope with stress. The advice you give will depend on their age. If they are very young, once you have talked things over distraction can work. Play a game with them or suggest something for them to play with, take them out or just occupy them with something else. Try not to use food though as this could form a bad habit of comfort eating. As they get older you might want to give them some books or online resources which have more sophisticated coping methods that they could try. It is good to offer a selection so that they can try out different things. They will find that some things will work better than others and so it is a good idea to try lots. It is also worth noting that it can be good to use relaxation techniques even when you are not stressed as then you are better prepared to handle stress when it comes along.
Seek Expert Help – It could be well worth seeking expert help. This could take different forms. If you are extremely worried and feel out of your depth then see your GP or go to a charity which specialises in helping children with stress. They will be able to help the child directly or help you to help them. If they are older, they may prefer to sort it out themselves. If it is not too serious but you feel out of your depth then you could get some books or look for guidance online. Go to trusted places by looking at the qualifications of the person giving the advice. It can be good to go to websites of specialist charities and organisations or look at books and other materials by experts in the field so that you know that it will be tried and tested. It can be worth trying all sorts of things but if the problems get serious then professional help can be worthwhile. It can also be wise to look at things tailored towards their age group as they may not be able to relate to things that are designed for adults.