Although very common in today’s teenagers, stress is not always recognized. Stress could be positive or negative, but how do you differentiate between the two? How do we help our children identify what they’re experiencing and enable them with stress management skills that they will need to lead a successful life? Here are some tips for parents to educate their children on stress and its causes, from Dulwich College Beijing’s Stress Management for Teens led by Jo Symons.
Stress is your body’s coping mechanism when under pressure. When our children are under pressure, their bodies secrete hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenalin. This is perfectly normal. In fact, this short term physiological tension in their bodies increases their mental alertness, which in turn helps them face challenges and demands placed on them. In simple words…it’s a completely natural and essential bodily function! We want our children to experience this and we want to see them outperform themselves occasionally. This is positive. However, it’s only desirable if it is short term, which means it subsides once the challenge is met.
If the demands placed on our teenage children are consistently high, their bodies end up having to maintain really high levels of hormone secretions to cope with demands placed on them. Typically, this is when they start to experience the symptoms of stress. It’s unnatural for their bodies to maintain high levels of hormones, and as parents we need to be able to pick on these signs to help them manage it. It could manifest in one of these ways list
Cognitive: Causing anxiety, poor judgment, memory lapses, lack of concentration, and pessimism.
Emotional: Irritability, sever mood swings, agitation, feeling overwhelmed, a sense of isolation, and even depression.
Physical: Digestive problems, unexplained aches and pains, rapid heartbeat, frequent illness, and nausea or dizziness.
Behavioral: Eating disorders, sleeping too much or not enough, procrastination, isolation from others, nervous habits, and use of relaxants such as alcohol or drugs etc.
If you observe carefully, you’ll realize that whether they use the word or not, our children are very aware of stress in the daily course of academic pursuits, extracurricular activities, peer relations, family relations, and life events. Some might believe it is a physical, emotional or mental response, while others might think the unusual demands itself are the ‘stress’. Another realization is that children are also exposed to many stress causing elements, which are completely out of our control.
Therefore, educating ourselves on how to help our children manage their stress and respond appropriately to the demands of their lives is absolutely essential. Knowledge is power and the best tool at our disposal to combat the perils of over-scheduled lives that our children lead. Sharing this knowledge with your children is the first step towards not only helping them understand how their bodies are designed to cope, but also decode the word ‘stress’ for them. It is imperative that they know when to succumb to it and when to resist.
Next week we will look at ways to help them deal with stress!
Photo: Courtesy of John Puddephatt (Flickr) and Marta B. (Flickr)