According to a 2017 study, preschool children in Singapore are getting increasingly stressed at a younger age.
Ms Regina Phang, Deputy General Manager and Principal Occupational Therapist of MindChamps Allied Care, reasoned that as the family unit decreases in size, parents have more to invest in each child and they pack their schedules with extracurricular activities. Some parents might also have a high level of expectation of the children’s performance and ability, which is expected.
Although some stress is inevitable, here are some signs to look out for which signals that your child is overly stressed.
A change in personality or behaviour
When your formerly talkative child starts to become withdrawn or your usually calm child develops temper tantrums, it might be a sign that they are going through something.
Preschool children in Singapore are not usually able to express their feelings by talking it out or channelling it in other activities. Thus, they have a tendency to bottle it up. This accumulation of stress might cause them to express it in more undesirable ways.
Preschoolers might start displaying signs of anxiety
Another red flag that your child might be suffering from excess stress is when they show symptoms of anxiety. If your child is constantly preoccupied, unable to focus or sleep, or worries about situations more than usual, they might also be under a lot of stress. Some children might even resort to chewing their nails or picking their skin because of anxiety.
When your child does not want to go to preschool
Sometimes, stress can also manifest itself through physical symptoms. If your child starts complaining of headaches or stomachaches and is becoming sick more often than usual, it might be due to excessive pressure from school. Faking sick so that they do not need to attend preschool in Singapore or other activities could also be a sign that they might be suffering from school stress.
Look out for changes in behaviour around others
At times, your child may behave normally at home but display erratic behaviours at preschool or around friends. It is always good to communicate with your preschooler’s teachers and the parents of their friends. Your child spends most of their day in school, so their teacher would probably be the first to notice if your kid is going through some hard times.
If you think your child is stressed, one of the things you could do is to communicate more with them. Ask them about their day and get them to share their worries. Children also learn as they play, so a reduction in their enrichment classes and an increase in outdoor play could reduce their feelings of anxiety. Having regular family time can also help your child, and you, unwind.
According to Phang, children are like a sponge and can sense the stress you might bring back from work. Taking time out from your day to hang out with them, even by doing something simple like taking a walk or watching television can help everyone reduce stress. Teaching your child ways to manage and express their feelings, like simple meditation techniques, can also aid them in reducing their worries.
The following video features meditation techniques which you could try out with your kids to help them relax and look beyond their worries:
However, if your child starts exhibiting worrying behaviours like frequent outbursts which hurt themselves and others, or have suicidal thoughts, it might be time to contact a counsellor or child psychiatrist.