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What are ways to help children reduce stress?

Stress is considered one of the scourges of our time, so much so that teenagers (and even children) are experiencing burn-out situations. Stress has invaded all spheres of society, from work to family. Stressed parents (by their boss at work, by a difficult economic situation, by a separation or an illness, by the lack of time to do everything, by a worry of car …) can communicate their stress to the children, the stressed children communicate their parents stress, parents stress the children to improve their school results, the children stress the parents because of their behaviors (aggressive, erased, solitary, cheeky …), the school stresses the parents and the children … The list is long and the vicious circle difficult to break.

Yet, stress can be good, it is above all life: “the spice of life and the kiss of death. ”

What is stress ?

Stress is primarily a physiological response of the body to adapt to different situations encountered during life. Stress goes through two main phases:

  • adrenaline production: “I can do it, I have the resources.” Adrenaline boosts, sets in motion, makes it more present and efficient, gives energy.
  • the production of cortisol (stress hormone): cortisol helps to calm a state of stress by increasing the level of glucose in the blood.

The problem occurs when these two hormones are secreted too much in the face of a situation of too much stress, repeated or that lasts a long time.

  • Adrenaline makes you anxious and / or angry. Dr. Catherine Gueguen that we are then overwhelmed by a feeling of fear and that our body goes into hyper vigilance, ready at any time to attack, flee or retreat.
  • A high level of cortisol leads to the feeling of being courageless, sad, and very insecure. Catherine Gueguen adds: “The child feels threatened and anxious. His thoughts, his emotions, his perceptions are veiled by a feeling of fear, of great danger, he is inhibited, unable to undertake and overcome any difficulty.

What are the main causes of stress in children?

Without claiming a list of Prévert or an exhaustive list of all sources of stress in children, we can try to answer the question “why are children getting more and more stressed? “. In addition to the major stresses experienced in early childhood (such as physical, emotional or moral abuse, abandonment, etc.), other factors are more related to our modern Western lifestyles:

  • the little daily stresses

“Hurry up, we’ll be late for school! ”

“Hurry up to take your bath! ”

” Eat ! ”

All these situations taken in isolation are far from dramatic, but it is their repetition that creates family stress.

  • the notion of ubiquitous performance

Teenagers even come to burn out as evidenced by Jeanne Siaud Fracchin, psychologist. They are exhausted in schools because the level of demands of adults is higher and higher, and by snowball effect, the demands of young people on themselves become unattainable.

  • family problems

Separation, unemployment, illness, arguments, problems at work … the problems of adult referrals can be the cause of stress of children but also contribute to increase their stress because it is more difficult to talk about oneself and his worries when parents are themselves concerned.

  • relationship and comparison to others

Children and especially teenagers are constantly asking: am I normal? Am I accepted in this group? Am I like the others? why am I worse than others? why does my brother get there and not me?

  • mental rumination

What children and teenagers tell each other in their heads is often more stressful than the actual and objective situation.

  • education by fear

Catherine Gueguen explains in her book “For a happy childhood” that fear has two faces:

the adult provokes fear by submitting the child (by screams, pats, punishments …),

the adult is afraid and conveys his concern to the child.

  • the challenges of academic success

 

50% of parents are worried about the academic success of their children.

85% of the reasons for consultation in child and adolescent psychology are related to reasons around the school.

It is as if academic success is a guarantee of life success, as if a child who succeeds in school is necessarily a happy child! In the May 2014 issue of Human Sciences (Psychology of the Child), however, it is written that

“The richest child, the best student, the most spoiled, the archetype of the ideal child of the twenty-first century is not the happiest. “

The positions of dunce and good student are both exposed to the pressure of parents, teachers and other students (we come back to the comparison and the relationship with peers).

  • genetic predisposition

Children are not equal in the face of stress, they have different predispositions to an anxiety-provoking situation. However, the environment can modulate this state: a naturally anxious child will be less than by nature in a soothing and reassuring environment, a child of peaceful nature can develop an anxiety state in a stressful environment.

What are the consequences of stress in children?

Effects on behavior and emotions

The secretion of adrenaline or too much cortisol in the brain can affect the behavior of the child:

  • loss of trustworthy
  • need to move as if to be ready to attack, flee or retreat
  • aggression and anger
  • loss of desire to play
  • difficulty to invest in what he does
  • inhibition and isolation

Effects on the immune system

Catherine Gueguen, pediatrician, writes: “The prolonged secretion of cortisol can also alter the metabolism and immunity of the body, lead to the development of chronic diseases, autoimmune diseases and have formidable effects on the immature brain of the body. ‘child. ”

Stress related pathologies

Jean-Martin Bonetti, child psychiatrist, says that stress-related pathologies in children can range from sleep disorders, somatisations of all kinds, to OCD, depression or even suicidal tendencies.

Jeanne Siaud-Fracchin adds that school phobia and anxious school breaks are exponential disorders in the psychology of children and adolescents, sometimes even as young as 7/8 years old.

Effect on memory and learning abilities

Stress stresses the memory. Some school difficulties are only related to stress. Jeanne Siaud-Fracchin uses an image to explain what happens in the head of stressed children:

“When you’re anxious, it’s like having an encrypted channel without the decoder. It confuses the mind and nothing can enter, nothing can be restored. ”

A child can only work when he is free from the stress that “gnaws” his brain.

Stress in children leads to difficulties in concentration and learning.

How to prevent stress in children?

Organize the daily to avoid small daily stresses

I propose in this article some ways to hurry up in the morning: 12 proposals to replace “hurry up! ”

Hear and recognize the difficulties and pains of each child

Jeanne Siaud-Fracchin insists on the quality of presence of caring parents. When the child encounters a difficulty, the parents can position themselves as companions:

“What can I do to help you? “

“We understand that there is something difficult, how can we accompany you and relieve you? “

It is also important to ask the children:

” how do you feel today ? «,

“How do you feel inside your body? “

This will teach them to pay attention to the signs sent by their bodies to signal their emotional state, to recognize when they are in “bad” stress.

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