It's easy for some parents to dismiss their kid's stress or anxiety as "a bad day." But life is just as stressful for a 10-year-old as it is for a 20-year-old. And, children of military servicemembers are no exception. Oftentimes, a military kid's stress is heightened by the deployment of one or more parent or constant relocation.
Stressed children may choose to show they are stressed non-verbally. For example, some children become more sedentary, snack more than usual, or keep to themselves, according to Psychology Today.Other kids may take stress out on themselves. In fact, 25 percent of children surveyed by KidsHealth.org, say they bang their heads against something, bite themselves or hit themselves to cope with stress. These unhealthy coping strategies are a stressed child's way of dealing with frustration, helplessness, hurt or anger, according to the survey.
What can you do?
Parents can help their children cope with stress by using healthy coping strategies. If your child seems stressed but has not said so, KidsHealth.org recommends you take the following steps:
1. Notice out loud. If your child has displayed unusual behavior - such as eating more or less, a loss of interest in hobbies or favorite activities or becoming withdrawn - tell him that you noticed a change in his behavior. Don't phrase your observation as an accusation, as in "Ok, what happened now?"
2. Listen to your child. Listen attentively with interest, patience, openness, and caring. Avoid any urge to judge, blame, lecture or tell you child what you would have done. The idea is to let your child get his concerns off his chest.
3. Comment briefly. Comments such as, "That must have upset you" or "No wonder you felt mad," will show that you understand what your child feels.
4. Put a label on his feelings. Your child may not know how to verbalize his feelings. If your child seems angry or frustrated, help him identify his emotions. This will help him communicate his emotions clearly and in a healthy way. A child who recognizes and identifies his emotions is less likely to convey strong emotions through unhealthy behavior.
5. Help your child think of things to do. Suggest activities your child can do to feel better now and to solve the problem at hand. Support your child's ideas and let him come up with the activities.
These strategies can help you and your child cope with stressful situations in a healthy, constructive way.