Stress is usually caused by a feeling that an external demand or situation is greater than your resources for coping with it. This feeling leads to a sense of being overwhelmed and out of control. In times of stress, the body and mind need extra energy reserves.
As children’s experiences become more complex, childhood stress is becoming more common. Many parents want their children’s lives to be easy and stress-free, but in the past 20 years, children are experiencing the need to adapt to increasing tensions and pressures in daily life.
Sources of Stress for Your Baby
- Lack of sleep, exercise, or proper nutrition
- Lack of free, unstructured time
- Busy, working parents
- Relationship stress of family members
- Parental feelings of guilt about child care experiences
- Lack of connection to nature
- Overstimulation via media or electronics
- Health issues of self (or family members)
- Peer pressure or social interactions
- Economic stress in family
- Change in parents’ marital status
- Birth of siblings
- Death of a family member
- Natural disasters
Young children may not readily show their stress or identify its causes, but they generally experience a negative impact from stress. Stress can release a high level of the hormone cortisol, which can break down neurological connections that affect the brain’s ability to learn and process information. If a child experiences prolonged stress without an outlet for release, his healthy development could suffer.
Your child’s well-being depends upon a balanced interplay of contraction and expansion, rest and activity. If he spends too long in an inward state, he can become isolated and self-absorbed. On the other hand, if he is distracted in the external world for too long, he may become disconnected from his inner self. As with breathing, he needs a rhythmic ebb and flow of activity to help him maintain balance.
If your child’s body is in a state of balanced health, then he can cope with stressors more easily. When he is physically imbalanced, he can become irritated by external influences and begin to hold tension that increases stress, which in turn can release as anger or frustration. Sometimes this release is a relief, and it can create a sense of calm and relaxation.
All stress is not negative. Moderate levels of stress can be motivating and challenging. Stress can prompt your child to take action or to improve himself.
Children learn from their role models when coping with stress. Be aware that both your stress level and your response to stress affect your child; he will probably behave like you when facing his own emotional challenges.
Whatever the situation, some level of stress is inevitable, and stress management is part of creating balance in daily life. Children learn from their role models when coping with stress. Be aware that both your stress level and your response to stress affect your child; he will probably behave like you when facing his own emotional challenges. When stress does occur, you can use it as an opportunity to teach positive stress management through the way you respond to it.
Fresh air, time in nature, and unstructured play are experiences that can calm the nervous system. Massage can be relaxing and can help alleviate stress. Essential oils, such as lavender and chamomile, have a tranquilizing effect that can help your child calm down.
With the responsibilities, demands, and pressures of parenting, it may be easy for you to feel overwhelmed and out of control. In order to create an environment that is nourishing to your child’s emotional well-being, it is foundational to take care of yourself, to fulfill your own needs, and to manage your stress level.