Caution: If you don’t know how to cope with your own stress, then attend to that first.
How do you know your child is stressed?
Here are a few possible symptoms
- does not pay attention to his favourite food
- prefers to stay alone
- mood swings
- answers questions in mono syllables
- distracted, disinterested
Each child has his own way of expressing stress, and a sensitive parent will be able to tell that the child is not his usual self.
(In some cases the child mimics what the parent does when stressed)
Why does the child get stressed?
Often, it boils down to expectations the child has formed, and when things don’t happen according to his wish. This is no different from what adults go through.The expectations of course are different. The child wants to be friends with a classmate but that kid is not interested. Or the child feels that he is not as popular as another kid. Or he wants a particular video game NOW and it is not happening.
What do we do when find the child stressed?
Don’t ignore it, even if you don’t wish to fuss about it. Let him know that you understand he is stressed.
This could often be a good starter “It looks like something is bothering you. You want to talk about it now? Or may be after lunch?”
- “It looks like…” – you are not saying he is stressed; it looks like is a simple, harmless observation
- “something is bothering you” - acknowledges that you have noticed
- “You want to talk about it” - offering to help
- “now? Or may be after lunch? – Gives him a specific choice.
Let us say he wants to talk now. Please don’t say “OK, let me finish what I am doing and we will talk in 30 minutes.” If you offered to talk now, stop everything else and talk now. When he is talking to you, do not take any calls. Switch off the phone or put it on silent mode. Keep it away. Switch off the TV. Listen to him. Watch him attentively as he is talking. Pay attention to what he says. Pay attention to his feelings. Give him undivided attention. Do not jump in to give advice. Once it looks like he has finished ask “Do you want to talk some more?” Don’t ask “Are you done?” After he has finished, keep quiet for a few minutes. If he too keeps quiet, let it be. Then ask “Do you want to do anything about it, so you feel better?”