Stressed-Out Kids: Learning to Deal with Life's Ups and Downs
In This Article:
Experiences That Create Stress
Some stressful events are very obvious, such as a new sibling, a new teacher or child-care provider, a move, a divorce, the start or end of a school year, a death, or a major illness. But here are a few that may surprise you.
Research has shown that birthday parties are one of the most stressful events in a child's life. Watching someone else open all those gifts and cards can unravel even the calmest kids!
It was ten days after the blizzard of the century when my phone started to ring. House-bound parents were fed up, and so were their kids! Trapped together in houses and apartments, they'd had more together time than they could bear. Routines had been disrupted, school had been canceled, and even getting to the grocery store was a major endeavor. Once the streets were opened the typical thirty-minute commute was still taking ninety minutes. Parents were late and frustrated even before they arrived at work. The four-year-olds started wetting, the six-year-olds were slugging it out, and the ten-year-olds were ordering everyone around.
And then there were the floods and tornadoes. They hit at night, which have played havoc with sleeping patterns, raised the fear levels, and sent kids flying into their parents' bedrooms for months afterward. Even after parents got their kids back into their own beds, a year later when the wind started to blow, the kids were upset again. Think about significant leant storms or weather changes. Have they raised your child's stress level?
Holidays and Travel
Holidays and traveling are supposed to be fun, which is why tr stress they create can sneak up on you. You want to ignore it. You're supposed to be having fun, but the disruption of routines, guests, an new foods can raise stress levels quickly and leave you in full vie' of all of the relatives or the public at large dealing with a kid flooded with cortisol.
Parents' Travel Schedules
An increase in a parent's travel for work can also create significant stress for kids. Schedules become more unpredictable and parents more harried. If you listen carefully, your child will let you know that you are overcommitted.
If you think about it, why would anyone want to give up the close intimacy of diapering? You get your mom or dad's full attention and soft, cushy diaper. Toilet learning is hard work. It demands attention t one's body and independence. It's stressful. Add to it a new preschool or a baby brother, and the meltdowns can be terrific.
Chad was just about to turn five. Three weeks before the big day he started what his parents referred to as nuclear meltdowns major tantrums over anything and everything. He'd wake up crabby, couldn't make a decision, and was incapable of doing things he could do three months before.
It's like when you've been sailing along quite smoothly and you suddenly feel like you've been blindsided that the odds are you're dealing with a growth spurt. Suddenly the kid who was so competent needs help with everything. His moods are mercurial, and tears are a constant companion. He's demanding and rude and when you look at the stresses in your life, you don't really see anything happening that would stress him out. Except that his birthday or six-month birthday is within the next six weeks.
Kids go through growth spurts about every six months in the early years, and every year as they move toward adolescence. During this time the old systems fall apart before the new ones work. The process usually lasts about four to six weeks. It's exhausting to everyone because the only thing you can really do is maintain your standards, nurture more, and wait it out. Growth spurts disappear as suddenly as they appear. One day you realize that your child has achieved a whole new level of skills. The monster is gone, replaced by a very enjoyable kid.
More on: Behavior and Discipline
From the book KIDS, PARENTS, AND POWER STRUGGLES: Winning for a Lifetime by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2000 by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. All rights reserved.
Buy the book at www.harpercollins.com.