Childhood can be stressful – For all concerned!
From the What Every Parent Needs to Know set of talks and materials
Stress and anxiety is a part of every life, and getting through childhood can be stressful. Sorry, but there it is… affecting the decisions we make and the ways we behave.
But does raising children have to be full of feelings of guilt or stress? Well firstly, while there are powerful reasons to limit stress from around your child, you will never eradicate them completely. And trying to do so will only add to it – so cut yourself some slack!
And this is as true for your child as it is for you – so Limit stress from your child where you can
With all its demands and expectations, childhood can be stressful. And learning to cope with stress is a natural part of childhood that you want your child to experience. But repeated exposure to stress filled environments will have a negative impact. Affecting the way your child manages stress and anxiety as their body adapts to it.
Even during pregnancy your unborn child is responding to the physical and emotional environment they are given. Influenced by mum’s diet, emotions and levels of stress as they prepare for a world that might be vastly different to what they are about to experience.
But a child born from a stressful pregnancy need not automatically go onto have problems
Born into a nurturing environment, children have enormous potential to change. But to do so, they need you to be aware of their development, to understand what their behaviours may be telling you and to have support with the actions and steps you take. Get these things in place and the guilt and stress you may be feeling as a parent can be re-framed and managed.
Childhood can be stressful ~ but too much and your child’s body will adapt
When this happens, children tend to react to the simplest demands with heightened emotions; they may be quick to cry, to appear helpless or react with anger.
If they have been born into a hostile world, were heightened fear and readiness to react with alert aggression is necessary, these responses could be lifesaving. If instead life is more typical, and your child is expected to concentrate and pay attention with more stable emotions, they are going to struggle.
Dealing with excessive stress is exhausting, and limits children’s ability to concentrate and maintain attention. Affecting behaviours in ways similar to, and often confused with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Children need a safe environment in which to grow; physically, emotionally and socially as they gain a sense of who they are
Children live in the moment, reacting rather than considering future consequences. Mistakes and accidents are normal and are far more frequent when they feel pressured, rushed or managing unexpected change. They need opportunities to learn from their own decisions – and their mistakes – within an environment of calm understanding. So look for ways you can limit stress and feelings of anxiety from around your child
As they grow and mature, their interests may differ from yours, they may take longer to master something, or do things differently. But they will respond best to gentle tones and reassuring as they experience these differences – and their emotions – while learning how to best manage them.
Within any stressful situation, or when demands become overwhelming, remember children are children
Children have immature social skills, unmanaged physical responses, a developing unfinished brain and confusion about their needs and wants. As well as being their own person, full of emotions, motivations and liable to getting things wrong. Not programmable machines, even when you did “Exactly what the book said!” And I am sorry to tell you – they will test your boundaries.
Children take all of childhood to grow, there are no quick fixes. Brains are developing, bodies are growing, and the world is a confusing place to navigate. Enjoy this time in the here and now, as you support their well-being – and your own. So, remember – childhood can be stressful – for all concerned. Help guide your child through this rapid period of growth and development, rather than expecting more mature responses, or behaving like the person you want them to be.
Dr Kathryn Peckham is an Early Childhood Consultant, author and researcher and the founder of Nurturing Childhoods. Providing all the knowledge, understanding and support you need to nurture your growing child. www.nurturingchildhoods.co.uk
DEVELOPING EVERY CHILD’S POTENTIAL