CHILDREN AND STRESS, DO WE CARE?
Twenty years ago, children were cycling, running and playing freely almost everywhere in their backyards. They still do it now, but perhaps with less freedom. Lately, it seems that everyday life stressors have increased. Adolescents are very vulnerable to these stressful life events due to their developmental changes in the physical, cognitive, and social-emotional capacities of adolescence(1). They tend to face many pressures from external and internal sources such as stress in school, in the family, media stress and also environmental danger.
There is a lot of pressure on students today to perform well at school. They are not only being pressured by their teachers and/or parents, but are also pressured within their peer groups (2). Fear of failure, worrying about fitting in, self-identity, and bullying are some of the common reasons for stress with peers. The increase in the amount of homework they receive, and unreasonably high family expectations being placed on them is not a simple stress to bear. A new stressor, known as Cyber-bullying can be very aggressive and pervasive and often causes serious emotional distress and harm to children.
Children may find that it is difficult to recognise and to verbalise when they are experiencing stress. Therefore, parents need to be aware and recognise any signs of stress in their children. Stress can manifest itself through changes in behaviour, which may include irritability or moodiness, extreme fearfulness, sleep disturbance, aggressive behaviour, school refusal and much more.
It is important for parents to teach their children to recognise and express their emotions. Spend time, listen to them and encourage them to talk about their feelings and their worries. Educate them on how to use healthy ways to cope with the stresses they experience, such as doing physical activities and having a healthy lifestyle. Most importantly, avoid over-scheduling children and allow them free time to play, read, listen to music or just have a ‘day out’. Our children are important. Don’t let stress affect their mental health and ruin their lives(3).
Haslinda bt Zainal Arpin
- Yaacob SN, Juhari R, Talib MA, Uba I. Loneliness, stress, self esteem and depression among Malaysian adolescents. Jurnal Kemanusiaan. 2009;14.
- Zubaidah S. Poor Peer Support as a Predictive Factor towards Depression among Adolescent. Medicine & Health. 2015;10(1):48-57.
- Rathakrishnan B, Molugulu N, Parasuraman B, Narasappa K. The relationship of stress, alcoholism and sexual behavior with mental health among secondary school students: A study in Sabah, Malaysia. European Journal of Social Sciences. 2012;31(3):376-83.