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Have you ever seen the meme that says: “I’m done adulting” or “I can’t adult today”? Raise your hand if you have ever felt the need to go back to your childhood, where you would not have the worry of paying bills and could just be carefree. I certainly have (and still do)! When my 8-year-old tells me how hard school life is, I usually respond with how hard it is to pay bills and ensure that my children get the education they deserve to be able to ‘adult’ one day. I do realise that this is not the ideal way to respond to her complaining, but just how hard can the life of a grade 2 student be?

Academic pressure:

Stress can start at a very early age, from preschoolers with separation anxiety, to primary school students with both academic and social pressure – especially the pressure of trying to fit in with their friends. As parents we tend to welcome all the extracurricular activities that are available, as it will teach our children responsibility, right? Not necessarily! Some children are just too busy to play creatively and to relax after school because of all these activities. After school, my daughter attends aftercare and I know that they don’t get time to relax, as there are a lot of children who need attention with maths, reading, writing, and so forth. It is actually very scary what children in grade 2 must be able to master in the short time frame they have. They start to feel pressure from parents to perform academically with good grades and being able to read English and Afrikaans (our first language is Afrikaans). At the end of the day, all these lead to the children not wanting to take part in all their activities. It will benefit them if you sit them down, talk to them about it and then decide whether to continue with the activities or not.

Social pressure:

I can’t seem to remember whether I experienced the same social pressures as my daughter at the age of 8. Honestly, the things she comes home with are nothing short of horrifying. When my daughter was 7, she refused to eat too much as it would make her gain weight. I was shocked at her remarks, as I am not generally someone to complain about my weight or talk about losing weight. She wanted a flat tummy and would look at herself in the mirror and moan about her tummy. I eventually had enough and forbid everyone in the household from using the ‘fat’ word. I must say that it’s better now and I think she accepted the fact that she is indeed not fat. So where did this come from? My opinion – social media, magazines and hearing her friends talk about celebrities. They start to idolise celebrities at young ages and seeing how ‘perfect’ these women look after the Photoshop session only adds to the pressure. Want to try and explain to an 8-year-old that the photo was probably edited? Grab yourself a cup of coffee, and good luck!

Parental stress:

Do you often complain about your job or financial status or argue with your spouse in front of your children? Children will pick up on these worries and then take it upon themselves to also worry about it. Parental stress, especially in mothers, is a particularly powerful source of stress in children.

World news can also influence children. Hearing or reading about terror attacks, murders and missing persons can have a massive impact on their mood.

Gender differences in adolescent stress:

Adolescent boys and girls experience equal amounts of stress, but the source and effects may differ. Girls tend to become stressed from social situations, and stress is more likely to lead to depression in girls than in boys. For boys however, specific events such as changing schools and getting poor grades appear to be the major sources of stress.

As parents, we try to do our best with our children and it is not always possible to keep them out of harm’s way. The best way to help them cope with these stressors is by:

  • Observing out loud: Tell your child when you notice something is wrong with them. Be sympathetic and show that you care.
  • Listening to your child: Ask your child to tell you what’s wrong, and then listen attentively and calmly.
  • Limiting stress where possible: If certain situations are causing stress, see if there are ways to change things.
  • Just being there: Sometimes children merely need you to be there and don’t necessarily want to talk about it. Let it be.
  • Being patient: It hurts to see your child unhappy and stressed. Try to resist the urge to fix every problem for them. Instead, focus on helping your child grow into a good problem-solver – a child that knows how to roll with life’s ups and downs and to bounce back and try again.

We can’t solve all the problems our children experience. We need to teach them healthy coping strategies, thereby preparing them to manage their future stress.

Until next week,
Stay stress-free,

Author’s note:

All information in this blog was researched for this blog, and is not intended for self-diagnosis or to be used as medical advice. All medical questions should be directed to a healthcare professional such as a doctor or pharmacist.

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