Four stages of life when your child might show signs of stress

mother hugs child who shows signs of stres

Signs of stress!  The crying baby, the screaming infant, the morose child and the sullen teenager. Most of us mums have had experience with at least one of these. And they are all signs of stress.

And stress is catching!

It can feel depressing for you. It can feel worrying, especially if you have to leave your child and get to work. It’s so easy to take your concerns into the job. And then, your lack of vigour, your inability to concentrate, affects the quality of your work. You feel miserable and sad. And the chances are your boss doesn’t help.

But when you know what to look out for. When you know how to notice the early signs of stress in your child, then it becomes possible to check it. You can deal with it.

And when you deal with the problem you do not need to take it to work with you. You can leave your child with a clear conscience and an easy mind. Plus your children will feel so much better.

A child shows stress in ways according to his age and maturity. It’s not too hard to recognise the signs and then to sort it out. Occasionally, your child will need the help of a professional – all you need to do is ask.

The crying baby

All babies cry – it’s the first thing you hear when they come into the world. ( And the whole world turns sideways)

They may cry with the discomfort of cutting a tooth, they may cry because they are wet, dirty or hungry – and you can deal with this. Colic is common, and your pharmacist will have effective remedies.

They may cry with the frustration of not being able to lift their head, to turn over, to scratch an itch. Your presence or the presence of a capable, kind person will relieve them.

He wants to learn to move in a synchronised manner – to wriggle, to lift his head then to turn over, and later to crawl. And then to take those first unforgettable steps. And if you think about it – walking is just a way of preventing yourself from falling flat on your face!

On the whole, stress isn’t a big issue with babies. But if your baby shows abnormal behaviours, then you may need to get help – fast. Never be afraid to ask your doctor if you are in doubt.

Children are the explorers of the world.

And then they learn to crawl and your house becomes a place of safety. They may learn to open cupboards. They may put little fingers into places they shouldn’t be. Electric sockets are seductive. They like to climb onto furniture to reach things you fondly thought were safe from them.

These are all things you will have dealt with in your child safety checklist!

It’s frustrating. And it’seven more frustrating when he cannot communicate, except by crying, screaming or having a good old temper tantrum. Even later on communicating your frustrations can be hard.

Where patience seems endless

Patience, calm and more patience are the keys to dealing with toddlers. Luckily, patience, when allied with love, is not too demanding although time constraints add to the stress – for you. Your little one will have little conception of time. This is where pre-planning can help smooth the day.

They are learning about the complexities of life. They need clearly stated, firm boundaries. But they need to understand them before they can be labelled rebellious. You can find more about furious infants here.

Unusual dependency – can you push too hard?

Young children depend upon the local adult for survival. Imagine, you are living with 10-foot giants, whose every word is law. It can be intimidating. They will tend to cling to the kind one the one they love – and that will be you. Pushing them away before they are ready leads to greater clinginess. And if your child had the misfortune to be badly treated at an even younger age then they will be even more clingy.

This can be difficult to deal with, especially where they need to go to a childminder nursery or school. Communication with the adults in charge is obvious – yet often neglected. Tell your child about the wonderful world out there for him to explore. Give him a time to tell you about his discoveries. This will help him become more independent. And tell him stories. Stories area great education- the bedtime story is a wonderful time to be with your child, really with him.

So, never push them away if you want them to become confident, independent beings.

A few words about bed wetting

Wetting the bed is very common in boys especially up to the age of 7 and usually, you do not need to be concerned. When it goes past this age, or when it starts after dry nights, then you need to make sure there is no physical cause. Infections may cause bed wetting. If it has always been there, them a structural abnormality might be to blame. Your doctor will be able to test for these things.

But often a wet bed follows some form of difficult situation. We all have bad days and one or two is just part of life – but if it persists you need to look very carefully for a cause. There may be something you can help with. You may need to sit down with your child and talk through a hard time. Bullying, parental separation, school work that is a little too hard can all lead to wet beds.

After the age of seven, you will be only too happy to have some help. here are usually “Bed wetting Clinics” where the doctor or nurses have special interests and skills. But always the system of rewards and never fear, shaming or punishments are what work.

More signs of stress in the child

 Some children become aggressive. Your child may become unruly, defiant and uncooperative. They may become the school bully. They may even become cruel to animals – and this can be a warning sign that your child needs professional help. Unfortanulety, some of us encourage shooting birds and cats – so who is to blame?

What can you do?

  • Don’t talk at them, talk with and them
  • Keep calm and tranquil – even if you a raging inside.
  • Be realistic. Children are not adults. They do not have the same control, understanding or coordination that adults have.
  • You are their model. Let them see how you behave when things might not be going well. A child needs and values clear guidelines – they are learning about life and it’s necessary rules. But remember, only fight a battle you will win. Most battles can be avoided by using a little intelligence.
  • But above all – be there for them even when they resist and withdraw. Let them knows that your love really is unconditional.

The Awkward Adolescent

What is adolescent trying to achieve?

Independence and friendships

They are acquiring independence. Their friends become increasingly important and dominant in their lives. Gone is their flawed image of the “perfect” parent (relief).

The goodwill and liking of their peers are of prime importance. Bullying from other children – and adults can be devastating.

Appearance is important

They become worried about their appearance. This is the age where fad diets and extreme dieting becomes more of an issue. Anorexic fashion models, too high heels which damage knees and backs are a special problem for girls to contend with. Luckily, women are becoming more voluble about workplace fashion requirements. Now there are signs that extreme and damaging fashions are becoming less dominant.

Teenagers may refuse to dress in a way we feel is OK. Girls might splash on a hilarious amount of makeup – they are learning! And boys, not to be outdone can smell like a boudoir and their hair gel almost drip.

You might worry about their dress sense, you might both have to compromise. And the boys are not to be left out. They tho’ they may go out smelling like a boudoir with stiff jelled hair, bare knees and odd laces. But hey – didn’t you experiment when you were younger?

Schoolwork and responsibility – beware of signs of stres

The school works become more challenging. The growing child is given responsibilities. Things like caring for a younger sibling, crossing the road safely and even doing their homework.

They are still not adults. Their brains are not fully developed. Especially in the frontal regions where good old common sense comes in. They are not able to solve complex problems. They might learn to drive – but their road sense is underdeveloped. Seeing the cause and effect clearly comes later. But all the time they are learning, learning, learning. And it’s no wonder you might find signs of stress at this emotional age.

Developing Sexual Identity

One important aspect of adolescents is its developing sexual identity. A father may need to explain ”wet dreams” and certainly the boys need to learn to respect the girls. They need to learn that “no” actually means “no”. and girls also need to learn acceptable sexual behaviours. Not leading the boys on, and not exposing themselves to lewd behaviours.

In a sense, that has become increasingly important with the cyber-bullying. Rule number one – never send anyone an image you would not be happy for your granny to see!

A sense of Isolation

They have plenty to worry about themselves. Often teenagers are lonely. Making friends can be hard – but so important. Bullying and shaming can be rife in some schools and most teenagers have to attend school. There are the exam pressures to contend with and fears for the future. We live in a competitive society – and no one wants to be left behind.

So how do adolescents show stress?

Eating disorders are one of the most serious ways. Bulimia and anorexia can be fatal if not caught and treated.

They may be withdrawn and secretive. We have to beware of secrets. While some are harmless, others have the potential to do harm like the ways grown men will groom young girls.

Some children rebel and refuse to obey house rule or refuse to do their homework

Sexual adventures, drug-taking and alcohol abuse are risk-taking behaviours. They need to be addressed and specialist help might be advisable. There are some things a parent is not the best person to help with.

The parent’s role

Teenagers are interesting, mostly loveable and entertaining. They have so much vigour, often such clear vision (note the school strikes by children concerned worth climate change).

But they are still not quite adults yet. So they need our support, our respect. We need to listen to their opinions – they might not all be crazy. And we must not shy away from telling them when we are concerned or anxious about their behaviour – and explain why.

You can determine the house rules together, teenagers can be reasonable if their views are respected.

But for serious problems get professional help early on.

Would You Like to be Younger Again?

The youth of today have much to contend with – our world can be a harsh and unforgiving place. But it also has incredible opportunities for the young person to go out and explore.

By this age, many youngsters are in the process of becoming independent. Financially this can be a struggle – and they might well need your help. More young adults are having to live on with their parents because the price of housing is beyond them. But they still strive to be independent.

They are finding what they want to do career-wise. Further training and education are options. Exciting projects to work on, the reality of employment and earning a living are all things they need to consider at this stage (if not before).

This is the age where seeking a lifetime partner becomes at the forefront of many a young person’s mind. And they do not all succeed.

How your support is invaluable – and evermore shall be so

However, they still need your support and not just financially. They need to know they are valued for themselves.

They need encouragement in this exciting and challenging time of their lives. You might be able to help in practical advice. Things like helping to draw up a budget. Perhaps to learn about banking, mortgages and money management. These are rarely taught in any detail at school. They are preparing to go out into the world and they need your wisdom. They also need your non-judgemental listening.

And for you, this is an emotionally draining time – they might be flying the nest – but what a wealth of new life they can bring to you.

And in the end

The crying baby, the screaming infant, the morose child and the sullen teenager. Most of us mums have had experience with at least one of these. And they are all signs of stress.

But you know how to catch it and deal with it before it becomes damaging.

It can feel quite satisfying for you. you can feel fairly relaxed, especially if you have to leave your child and get to work. It’s so easy to leave a problem solved behind so you can concentrate on your job.

But when you know what to look out for, how to notice the early signs of stress in your child, then it becomes possible to check it and deal effectively with it. Most things you are very competent to deal with. And you know that help is available for times when you and your child might need it.

And when you deal with the problem you do not need to take it to work with you. You can leave your child with a clear conscience and an easy mind. Plus your children will feel so much better.

As the poet Kahlil Gibran says in his beautiful poem about children:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

 You are the bows from which your children

as living arrows are sent forth.

 The whole poem is here

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