Unpacking - Stress!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The start of a new school year and children may be thinking about starting a new school year, who their teachers will be, who their new classmates will be and if you are like me and are moving house – it’s ‘stress city’.

My sons have totally different ways of expressing and dealing with stress ( well we’ll get to the dealing with later) for now it is watching how each is expressing their ‘stress’ and being aware that children also experience stress.

Take for example moving house: At the moment it is stressful for us, as a parent we are managing the very practical aspects, which involves the managing of documents and paperwork and organising and remembering to pay bills, finalise packing and finally deal with the move. I haven’t really had time to explore the fact that I will be leaving neighbours who are now close friends. I, however, understand that moving only two blocks away will mean I still see the mums and can easily organise catch ups.

My boys (8 and 10) are however feeling the more emotional side of the move. They feel the ‘finality’ of moving away from the cul-de-sac to a new street, only 100 metres from their current friends but they do realise it’s not going to be as easy seeing them as now. They are asking questions about why we have to move, they are coming up with plans about what we could have done instead of moving and coming up with creative (okay some wierd) ideas about how they wish to stay in contact with their friends, like making a remote control helicopter or a remote camera or buying their friends an ipod touch - I don’t put their ideas down! It’s all a critical part of them being able to accept the situation eventually.

So here is what stress looks like for my children:

My very social, outgoing son displays stress by crying, lashing out and is very verbal about not wanting to move. We hear about it every time we go to the new house, “I want to stay at my old house, I don’t want to move, I’m going to miss my friends”

My 8 year old has said nothing, actually at times he may have said something positive about his new room but yesterday I noticed he got really quiet in the car, all he said was “I still don’t understand why we have to move?” I realised in his own way – his more quiet and easy going way – he is still feeling stressed about it. It takes a little longer to get his thoughts out verbally than with his brother and it’s easy to overlook that as a parent or just to think oh, he’s okay because he isn’t complaining about it.


So what are some of the general stress signals:
  • Clinginess
  • Sleep disturbances or bed wetting, perhaps even some trouble getting to sleep
  • Physical pain, perhaps complain of an upset stomach, headaches, unexplained or frequent ‘allergy’ attacks
  • Restlessness
  • Apathy
  • Worrying
  • Impaired judgement
  • Negativity
  • Obsessive or compulsive behaviour
  • Overreactions to little annoying things
  • Loss of confidence
  • Sighing or breathing difficulties
  • Withdrawing or isolation
  • Regressive behaviour

Stress can cause a range of emotional, behavioural or physical reactions and being aware that just because a child doesn’t talk about it, doesn’t mean they don’t feel it. 
What’s the most stressful situation you have been through, what stress reactions did you or your child experience?



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