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Help hurried children cut stress in lives

    Are our children’s lives too rushed? Many of the problems children experience may be related to the chronic stress of today’s busy lifestyles. “Hurried children” — those stressed by lives that are over-scheduled or full of stress-inducing changes — tend to have chronic problems such as headaches, stomach aches, hyperactivity and chronic depression. In extreme cases, hurried children are more likely to experience school failure, to use drugs, to be involved in delinquency and to commit suicide.
    Today’s children are expected to handle an extraordinary number of roles — in the home, in the classroom, in their peer groups and sometimes in their out-of-school programs. Common childhood illnesses, the birth of a sibling, a divorce in the family, the loss of a family pet or too many activities can have negative effects on children’s lives. When children experience too many of these changes in too short a time, or the stressors are too intense, they may be overloaded.
    Children who are stressed tend to express their worries and anxieties through their behavior. The problem is that adults often treat these behaviors as “misbehavior” and punish the child, instead of helping reduce the stress.
    The following behaviors may indicate that a child is under stress. Although all children show some of these behaviors at one time or another, the child who exhibits many of these behaviors, most of the time, may be suffering from stress overload.
    When children are stressed, they may:
    - become unresponsive or withdraw from others;
    - have frequent temper tantrums;
    - act sullen or unhappy;
    - develop eating problems;
    - have frequent physical complaints such as stomach aches or headaches;
    - be overly sensitive to mild criticism;
    - show aggression toward others;
    - have an uncaring attitude about their behavior or responsibilities;
    - become clumsy, jittery, nervous;
    - be hyperactive and unable to concentrate;
    - talk compulsively about anger, threats and fears.
    The good news is that adults can help children reduce their stress. If a child you know is over-scheduled and overanxious, try to help him find ways to release the stress. Perhaps he needs to choose a few activities and eliminate others. More sleep, nutritious foods and regular exercise may help reduce the feelings of stress. Also keep in mind that children need the following:
    - a chance to be themselves, rather than being pushed to be what they are not;
    - self-achievement: to progress at their own speed, within the framework of their own abilities;
    - time to learn at their own pace and time to spend by themselves absorbing what they have learned;
    - freedom from anxiety, to increase their confidence their own ability to cope with the experiences that lie ahead of them;
    - a positive picture of themselves, so they will see themselves as people of worth;
    - a positive concept of others, so they will see others as people of worth;
    Above all, children need the love and support of adults who care about their well-being. With loving support, children can learn to work through their stress and handle their busy lives.
    For more information on parenting, contact Diane at (912) 871-0504, dianem@uga.edu or www.ugaextension.com/bulloch.

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