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The causes of stress and anxiety in children

Stress and anxiety in children are on the increase. All parents want the best for their children – we want them to grow up healthy, happy and kind. We want them to live a meaningful life as adults. We want them to be able to live in our chaotic world without becoming overwhelmed by the speediness and busyness of modern life. We want them to be free of stress and anxiety.

Sadly, it doesn't always turn out like that and instead many children are suffering from anxiety. In fact, there has been a significant increase in the number of children suffering from stress and anxiety related illnesses and hyper-sensitive behaviours.

Stress is a new health and social hazard to challenge children in our modern world. The “hurried child” and the "over-scheduled" child are both modern developments. This is one of the reasons children are becoming anxious.

Margot Sunderland in her book, "The science of parenting: How today’s brain research can help you raise happy, emotionally balanced children", says, "Increasingly, scientists are linking stress in infancy and childhood to the soaring numbers of people suffering from anxiety and depressive disorders from adolescence onward."

Somewhere over the last 10 years parenting has become a type of competition. The hidden stress this places on growing children causes many other issues that delay healthy development on all levels emotionally, socially, mentally and cognitively.

We have sped up the pace of life and living. We live in an instant world where we expect everything NOW. Communication, food, pain relief, results, well behaved children - you name it, we expect things instantly.

This expectation works silently and unconsciously creating stress and anxiety when things do not always happen like that.

Children take ALL of childhood to grow. They need ALL of childhood to learn how to think, learn, process information, behave appropriately, manage their lives, dress themselves, find their way home and learn who they are! We cannot rush this vital development. If we do we risk them becoming anxious.

Main sources of stress and anxiety in children:

  • Hurried over scheduled world.
  • Temperaments and personality.
  • Absence of healthy love and attachment.
  • Too much pressure on children to perform.
  • Stressed parents who rush.
  • Not enough calm, still, quiet solo time.
  • Poor sleep pattern.
  • Too much stimulation from TV, toys and adult commands.
  • Not enough consistency and routines.
  • Too much social change.
  • Shaming language.
  • Threats of abuse and violence.

Busy parents who have poor stress regulating systems also often contribute to their children becoming anxious.

The modern world has created environments that have overloaded children’s stress regulating systems.

Being aware of how to reduce some of the stressful events in children’s lives will help to reduce their stress and anxiety. Tips for reducing children's stress and anxiety will be covered in the next article.

Written by Maggie Dent.  Author | Parenting and Resilience Specialist | International Presenter | Director of “Esteem Plus”.

Visit Maggie's website.

Maggie has books and CDs available on managing anxiety in children and building children's self-esteem. For example, Maggie is the author of "Real kids in an unreal world: Building resilience and self-esteem in today’s children", published by Pennington Publications, Australia, 2008.

Copyright Maggie Dent, 2010.
NB: Any information contained on this site is not provided as an alternative to the obtaining of psychological advice from an appropriately qualified practitioner.

Reader Comments (2)

Children are over stimulated. They watch far too much television and spend far too long on the computer. I am a teacher and we have children falling asleep in the classroom because they have been up half the night playing computer games.

Is it a good idea to let our children have their computers in their bed rooms? I think not.

Tue 26 Jan, 10 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve
Absolutely! Stress can cause a myriad of problems ... starting with high blood pressure, anxiety, etc.! I have no doubt that I've been on blood pressure medicine for 25 years because of my extremely high stress job! my doctor told me to look for another job, but, back then, that was easier said than done.

More on here: http://www.thebrainhealth.com/stress-and-anxiety.html
Thu 28 Oct, 10 at 1:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterAaditi

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