With thanks to Drs Yiming and Fung, authors of ‘Help your child to cope: Understanding childhood stress’
We all experience stress in varying amounts in our lifetimes. Adults under stress are advised to talk to others, get help in managing stress, increase physical activity to work it off and so on. Children don’t have as many options. They need the help of caring adults to cope.
Stress is reaction to a situation seen as being threatening and fearful. We react with a ‘fight or flight’ response which triggers an outpouring of adrenaline and cortisol. This results in changes to our physiology, including increased heartrate and breathing, more rapid blood circulation and the closing down of oxygen supply to various areas of the brain and body. In times of danger, we need oxygen to be sent to our muscles to help us flee or fight, so blood supply, with the oxygen it carries, is sent in less amounts to higher brain levels and other bodily systems. This is why young people so often experience a ‘blank’ in an exam situation. They simply don’t have enough oxygen in the higher brain areas to access the information learned and stored there. They also experience tummy aches, because their digestive systems stop working under stress.
What stresses children?
Stress is part of the daily life of all of us and is not limited to only a few really traumatic events. The same goes for children. They, like us, have to adjust to coping with all kinds of minor stressful events, such as missing a bus, failing a test, fighting with a friend and so on.
More serious, damaging stress can be caused by:
These days, many parents are concerned that children seem to be emotionally immature. They want instant gratification, they demand entertainment rather than managing ‘own time’, they find it difficult to sustain attention, they are easily frustrated and act out their emotions rather than controlling them. Can you help change this?
Remember that your child was born with the desire to be the best person possible, to grow up and do what she is best fitted to do, to be healthy and happy. For this to happen, she needs to develop physically, mentally but also emotionally. Your job is to give her the opportunity to meet her desires.
Parents play an important role here. In the first place, you should be aware of the different factors that can affect her during the growing years. You also need to realise that she will meet obstacles along the way – either stemming from herself or from her environment. For example, she may show a reluctance to try new things which could be the result of criticism or being compared with others. You’ll need to know how to act to help minimize negative things and maximize the positive.
Let’s start with the most basic factors that a child needs in order to develop to full potential.
(With thanks to Svea Gold)
When Mat fails to learn to read at grade level, his parents are encouraged to help him with extra reading at home, or refer him for remedial reading. This often doesn’t help very much and the reason is that reading failure is a symptom that the child has an underlying problem. His problem may not be the act of learning to read at all. The struggle to read is a red flag signifying that there is something going on in Mat’s brain that is the real reason for his problem.
For example, if the two sides of Mat’s brain aren’t communicating properly, the eyes won’t function properly either. Most people see words with each eye. If you are reading the words THE CAT your right and left eyes will separately see the words (THE CAT and THE CAT), then send the signals to the brain. The brain, in turn, superimposes the two images into one and you ‘read’ the words: THE CAT.
If Mat’s eyes are not functioning properly, he might look at the two images and see: THE TCAT CAT. He can’t make sense of this so can’t read it. He blinks and looks again. This time he sees: THE CATHE CAT. Mat decides that he really sucks at reading and must be very stupid!