Dealing with Children Who Feel Overwhelmed

Stress is usually something we associate with becoming an adult or a grown up, and we tend to view the world of kids as light, cheerful and happy.  However, our children can also feel overwhelmed and stressed at some point – whether it’s frustration at being unable to complete a task or just having too much of what’s happening in their own lives. It is our job as parents and caretakers to recognise this and come to the rescue.


Children might find it difficult to express their overwhelming feelings of stress or might not even recognize the feeling at all, but it is more common than you think. The stress that we come across as adults seems so much larger and significant in comparison to what a child goes through. Their problems may appear small in the grand scheme of things, but remember that they are smaller people too. They haven’t had much experiences to learn from and even minor situations that trigger anxiety can cause an immense impact on your child’s well-being.

The first thing we as caretakers should be doing, is learning to recognise stress among kids. It won’t be easy for a child to talk about his/her feelings so if you notice a change in their behaviour, ask your child to tell you what’s bothering them and listen attentively.  Help them understand their feelings and communicate positive encouragement.

Our children can feel overwhelmed with school – coping with homework, pressure on exams or changing classes and teachers and over packed schedule. They might feel burdened with spending 6-7 hours a day in school, followed by extra-curricular activities that demand further concentration. Many children may also experience anxiety about wanting to excel in school or in all activities they’re in. Let them understand that it’s the “taking part” and “giving your best” that counts.

Sometimes our moods also rub off onto our children. For example, morning routines for most families can be tough – waking up late, rushing to get everybody fed and watered before they pile out of the door. This manic start of the day can have a startling impact on your child’s mindset before going to school. Try to make sure you wake up with plenty of time ahead and establish a routine that flows and allows the odd morning disaster (Annoyingly, we have all had them!).

Encourage your child to take up hobbies that they truly enjoy. Just as we all need a release, be it tennis, spin class or swimming, so do they. It’s good to let them focus on something that’s fun and allows them to relax and play. Sometimes this can be trial and error, taking them to different classes and letting them have a taste of different sports/activities, but the important thing is that get to try different options, find an activity they might enjoy, thus giving them time to reduce stress.

We need to keep in mind that children are children. Within their own schedules of school, homework and hobbies, they need some play time. Whether it’s reading their books, playing vets or jumping from couch to couch to save themselves from the molten lava all over the carpet, they need to just be kids at times. Using their imagination and being creative and playful is just as important for aspects of their growth and development. These are particularly helpful when you notice your little one feeling overwhelmed or anxious about something. As they grow up, they will naturally have all the pressures and strains that come with being a ‘grown up’ – they won’t be little for long. Allow your kids to go through a normal childhood. Try to limit stress to a minimum. Talk to them and help them identify what they are feeling and let them know those feelings are okay. Focus on the positives. Above all, set a good example. Make time for family chill. Watch a family movie or have an afternoon at the beach. Family down time is key.


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