Stress in children can be caused by pressure from outside sources like family, friends, and school or from within like finding difficulty deciding what they should or what they should have done.
A two year old can become anxious because the people they know who make them feel good (parents) are not around. Separation from parents in pre-school children makes them anxious too.
What could your child possibly worry about?
You could be thinking as a parent, "My children have no major responsibilities like bills to pay, all they have to do is play, eat food and go to school." To some degree parents place demands and expect children to meet them without even perceiving if they have the ability to meet them.
As a child grows, academic and social pressure especially the need to fit in weighs heavy on them. Well-meaning parents who are high achievers enroll their kids for many activities which add unnecessary stress and frustration.
Your child could complain about the number of after school activities and this is a signal to the parents. The best way to deal with this is to sit them down and talk about the pros and cons of quitting. If quitting isn’t an option help them to manage their time and responsibilities so as to decrease on their anxiety.
A child’s stress can be intensified by more than the surroundings, they may be hearing you talk about your troubles at work, relatives or fighting with your spouse. Parents should be careful of how they discuss such issues.
The events that happen in a country for example the 1994 genocide of Rwanda, is a major contributor to childhood stress. Kids who keep hearing, watching replays of it on television or movies are affected and parents need to monitor what their children are watching.
Complicating factors like death, illness of a loved one, divorce, magnify stress in children. Separated or divorced parents shouldn’t put kids in a situation where they have to choose sides or expose them to negative comments about the other parent.
Short term behavior changes like mood swings, change in sleep patterns and bedwetting can be noticed. Physical effects like stomach aches and headaches are signs. The child has trouble concentrating or completing work at school, child becomes withdrawn or spends time alone. Picking up new habits like thumb sucking, nose picking, older children start lying, become bullies or defy authority. Some may experience nightmares, find it hard leaving you, over-react to minor problems and there’s a drastic change in academic performance.
Reducing child stress.
Enough rest and good nutrition can do wonders for the child. Apply good parenting skills by making time for your children. As your child grows older ‘Quality time’ is important because this shows them that they are important.
Communicate with your children so that they can easily approach you when they have a problem. As a parent, let them know that some level of stress is normal like getting angry, scared, lonely or anxious.
If you have trouble talking to your children, books like ‘Dinosaurs Divorce’ by Marc and Lauren Krashy Brown, "The Five Love Languages for Children’ by Gary Chapman can help. If the child’s condition doesn’t change seek professional advice from a counselor or the school teacher to find a solution.