Working adults in Singapore are likely drained from juggling long working hours, heavy work commitments and caring for their partners and parents. When you add children to the mix, it can become an overbearingly stressful and exhausting affair.
This is why parents may overlook the fact that their children could be going through a similarly frenzied and stressful time at school. While the Singaporean educational landscape is often heralded as one of the best in the world, it comes with a price – packed schedules and pressure to perform.
Besides coping with exam stress for numerous subjects, endless hours of tuition and enrichment classes as well as a pile of homework, children are often told that it's still not enough. To stand out, they also need to excel in extra-curricular activities. At that age, children also deal with peer pressure and worry about fitting in.
It's not far-fetched to see that kids can find it become overwhelming quite quickly. If you notice your child displaying symptoms of stress, such as difficulty concentrating, withdrawing from family or friends, nail biting, and other behavioural changes, your child may be finding it difficult to cope with the stress they are under.
How do you help your kids manage their stress so they grow up to be healthy and happy?
1. Establish open communication channels
How do you even know if your child facing more stress than they can cope with? You may notice stress symptoms like those mentioned above, but until you are able to communicate with them, you won't be able to get down to the root of the problem.
Encourage open channels of communication by making it routine for your child to share how their day went. To cement this healthy habit, you should also share how your day went, including both the good and bad things that happened.
Show an interest in their lives every day, and not just when it's convenient for you. Don't just stop with close-ended questions, especially if your child answers "just fine" without much interest. This could be a sign of stress, as children tend to withdraw themselves when faced with stress, or it could genuinely be "just fine". You need to know which.
Instead, ask open-ended questions to encourage them to describe what they did during their day, and establish a healthy line of communication and candid conversations. Remember, you are treading a fine line between adding another source of stress for them and trying to be the solution.
You can also go a step further to help them communicate better in their social circle. Besides just you and your spouse, it is important that they feel they can talk to their siblings, friends or teachers when needed. Equip them with the ability to find mentors, seek advice from the right people and bounce ideas with a person they trust.
In many instances, simply vocalising the stress they feel rather than bottling it, can be half the battle won.
2. Equip them with calming strategies
If your child voices out that he or she is feeling stressed out, try some simple calming techniques like taking deep breaths, or help them to take a step back from the stressful situation and show them that they just need to think about the best way forward, rather than let themselves become inundated by the situation.
Some children may also be more active or creative, and prefer to participate in activities that are leisurely or give them time to wind down, such as jigsaw or crossword puzzles, sports, art or music. These don't have to be done when the child is feeling stressed out, but can be done at regular intervals to create a balanced routine.
Another source of stress can arise from a fear of failing. Remind your child that it is okay to fall sometimes, and try to be a role model by demonstrating to them that the answer is not about being perfect or the best, but to keep trying and to never give up.
3. Create a balanced schedule
One of the ironic things about managing stress is that people are often too busy to sit down and count their blessings. While constantly striving for the next milestone can aid in going faster and further in your career and other ambitions, it also never lets you look at the bigger picture.
When scheduling your child's day or week, draw up a schedule that focuses on completing important academic tasks, but also make time for play and positive reinforcement activities for your child.
Growing children also need ample rest, exercise and the right amount of nutrition. Start mornings right, with a hearty breakfast and enough time to catch up on school work or play time, and keep some "downtime", especially away from screens, towards the end of the night before they sleep.
Sleep is a critical and growing health issue in Singapore
Sleep-deprivation is a critical and growing health issue in Asia. In a sleep survey we conducted, 55% of those we surveyed in Singapore admitted to sleeping 6 hours or less each night.
While adults may need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, teens need between 8 to 10 hours and children between 6 to 13 years old need about 9 to 11 hours. Just as it can be important to detect signs of stress in your children, you should also be attentive to their sleep patterns and ensure they are not sleep-deprived.
Sufficient sleep helps your child's body to produce the normal amount of growth hormones for his or her development. This helps them to learn in school, interact with their peers and maintain good general health.
At AIA, we are committed to helping people reap the benefits of sleep by raising awareness of good sleeping habits and adequate sleep, to enjoy living healthier, longer, better lives, with a dedicated sleep content hub
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