Does your child suffer from stomachaches and sore tummies? Stress and not fitting in can be to blame


11. 05. 2023

Children may be stressed more often than we think. Often for reasons we mistakenly think are unimportant. For getting bad grades, feeling like they don’t fit in at their nursery or school, the atmosphere in the family is uncomfortable or they have taken on too many hobbies. Stress usually manifests itself psychosomatically, in the form of seemingly unexplainable pain and illness. Sudden and unwarranted changes in behaviour are another symptom. Our children may also suffer from difficulties in adapting at school or from natural disasters or excessive media influence. How can we help our children navigate these difficult emotions?

How to recognise when your child is stressed?

When children are stressed, they often show it through psychosomatic problems that manifest as pain (for example as tummy aches), sleeping problems, eating problems or mood changes. They do not know how to express this negative feeling in any other way - they are only just learning to talk about it. It is therefore very difficult for them to say clearly what is stressing them, what they are worried about and why they feel insecure. This is a skill that their parents should help them to develop. But to do this, they must first understand their child's behaviour and experiences.

"Stress is one of the most common reasons why families with children seek professional help. The therapist/psychologist can help them understand the root of the problem, communicate and self-reflect, and cope better with a difficult period of time," says Mgr. Kateřina Halfarová, LL.M., psychologist at Canadian Medical. She adds, "In children, stress often manifests as a change in behaviour without any obvious cause. This does not necessarily mean that something is bothering them, but it is good to take the possibility into account. I always recommend seeking professional help as soon as possible – that is when parents notice the first changes they themselves don't understand."

Under the influence of the online world

Even very young children have a good sense of what is happening around them. We live in a very specific world nowadays - the internet and social media are at the forefront of our daily lives. This means that children can access information that they are not prepared for or that is not appropriate for them. "The virtual online world can create a sense of impending danger/disaster and challenging situations. Children should definitely not be allowed to watch news all day long, even if its on only in the background and they would be watching it passively. At the same time, however, they should receive age-appropriate basic information. What is happening in the world should be explained in a broader context," explains the psychologist.

It is very important to devote enough time to answering children's questions and properly discussing with them. "In no way should we downplay the concerns that children may have. We can give them an example of what helps us adults and, if necessary, look for solutions. It’s crucial that the family is a safe haven for the child. However, if the fears of the whole family exceed a healthy limit, I recommend seeking professional help as a whole," adds Mgr. Halfarová.

A complexity of adaptation

Adaptation is something we encounter throughout our lives, whether it's changing jobs or choosing new hobbies. This process helps children as young as preschoolers discover how to cope with certain situations and where to find support. However, if the new social environment is significantly different from the on which the child is used to, adaptation can be more challenging - for example, when starting nursery or school, or when returning to education after a long illness or holiday. "School age is specific in terms of the interactions children have with the outside world. Peer groups come to the forefront of priorities and children learn to establish close relationships. Adaptation is important, as it enables children to accept the rules, norms and values of their new environment," says Mgr. Halfarová.

The skills and habits acquired from the family environment as well as from school or kindergarten help children to adapt. These skills are further developed and strengthened. "Every child has individual potential that can be supported and developed. However, if there are negative symptoms when entering the school environment, it is important to be alert. The manifestations can be varied - for example, the child has problems sleeping or shows increased emotionality. It does not always occur to parents that the cause of the difficulties lies in the adaptation process. Unresolved problems can have an impact on the whole family, so it is advisable to seek help from a specialist," concludes Mgr. Kateřina Halfarová, LL.M.

Mgr. Kateřina Halfarová, LL.M., psychologist at Canadian Medical

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