Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The New "S" Word

by Andriana Mantas of Collaborative Minds

Coping in a stressful world can be tough on all of us, especially children. As our times are changing and we enter a fluctuating economy, adapting to environmental initiatives, and balancing work-time with family-time.
There are many 'stress contributors' that affect each and every one of us in a different manner.

In 1990, my second child who was 4 years old at the time began to blink excessively. Nothing had changed in our lives, but there was something that had changed in our world - 'operation dessert storm' had begun. Even though, the conversations in our home were limited, as was his exposure to any media coverage, he still required more information about this event. We provided him with certain details in order to give him a sense of reassurance that was necessary for him to cope and understand. He didn't want to know about the fighting in the other country; instead he wanted to know how this event would impact his family.

There are many books at the bookstore about stress - one of my favourites, which I often reference, is David Elkind, The Hurried Child, in his book he states that "stress is the wear and tear on our bodies that is produced by the very process of living." Elkind also states that one of the factors that contribute to stress in children's lives is the hurries - to get ready, to go from one place to another, to do well and to grow up. Family disruptions due to death or divorce, health problems, tension and conflict in the home may cause children to develop fear, anxiety and emotional overload, and may contribute to chronic stress.

Children display 'stress signals' that can sometimes go unnoticed and without their own or even our awareness. The more obvious signs are continuous complaints of headaches, tummy aches or neck pain. Nervous habits may become apparent (nail biting, hair twisting, thumb sucking). A child may exhibit a difference in their sleep patterns or excessive energy and trouble relaxing. Subtle signs are a child becomes lethargic, daydreaming and not want to participate in activities. They may also become a little introverted. If you ask your child what's wrong, they may not be able to connect their stress to their actions, or you may have to play detective and look for clues.

So let's look at some 'stress relievers' that can help alleviate the stress for both you and your child. One of the most effective reliefs is to hug your child; this relaxes them and builds self-esteem. It's important to listen to them and when doing so, make a mental note to track changes in moods. Use words of encouragement whenever possible; applaud your child's effort - all of it; help yourself and them to identify their strengths. Be as honest as possible and promote open dialogue for them to express themselves. Insert humour in your daily routine and allow for quiet time, where all you just sit and hang out.

Is stress really the new "s" word?

For more information, please contact Andriana Mantas of Collaborative Minds at 416-803-5321 or

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