One of my children seems particularly affected by stress. This child tends to be pretty easy-going and slow-moving, so it often comes as a surprise when I hear the words “I’m so stressed out, there’s just too much pressure!” come out of this child’s mouth. Often, I cannot understand what is so stressful about the situation; in my eyes, everything is under control and we are just plugging right along. When I ask what is stressful, this child answers, “What if the teachers change their mind and decide to have a test? What if I forget all of my spelling words? What if…” Basically, many different possible scenarios are going through this child’s head, and the uncertainty is overwhelming.
I have a few thoughts about why this is happening. First, there has been a big leap in terms of academic responsibilities and difficulty this year, so I suspect that the heightened expectations are somewhat stressful. Second, this child is at a developmental stage characterized by much emotional, physical, and spiritual growth, so facing the unknown both within and without is probably a bit scary. Third, this child’s temperament (melancholic, I believe) probably also plays a role.
1) I have offered to pray with this child, and I have suggested that they ask for the protection of their guardian angel. I remind all of my children of Jesus’ words when he said, See that you do not despise any of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father (Matt 18:10). Each of us has a guardian angel, and we might as well ask for their help!
2) I have asked this child to be specific about what is stressful, and I have listened carefully and observed patterns in what is said. If a particular theme keeps rising to the top, I sit down and talk with this child at a time when we are both calm, and tell this child what I have noticed. Then, I have asked if this child would like to hear my suggestions. If yes, I will give a couple of practical tips and ask if this child needs my help in implementing them.
3) I have tried to keep our schedule predictable and fairly low-key.
I would love to hear your suggestions on helping children cope with stress!
Mary, Queen of Families, pray for us!