Stress is faced not only by adults, but also by teenagers and even children. Singapore students experience a higher level of anxiety as compared to those from 77 other countries, with 86% of Singapore students being worried about poor grades in school, compared to an average of 66% of students from other countries.
It is essential that parents of young children attending preschool in Singapore be aware of their child’s behaviours and watch out for the warning signals of stress.
Common signs of stress in Preschoolers
According to Tricia Tam, a psychologist with MindChamps Allied Care, changes in a preschooler’s behaviour are often attributed to misbehaviour and labelled as “difficult to manage”. However, if there is a significant change to their normal behaviour, it is a cause for concern.
Several observable behaviours include sudden changes in sleep routine at night (night terrors or nightmares), sudden changes in emotions (being overly attached, easily irritable, increased temper tantrums or sadness) or physiological changes (complaints of stomach aches or headaches).
How parents can prevent stress in preschoolers
While adults may find that watching a movie or television relaxes them, screen time is not a recommended stress-prevention method for children as prolonged exposure to screen time decreases the opportunity for a child to communicate effectively.
Time with the screen only allows for one-way receptive communication while reciprocal two-way conversations are achieved when a parent engages with the child one to one.
Tricia explains that the first step to alleviating a child’s stress is to acknowledge their emotions. “Firstly, get down to your child’s eye level and tell them that you understand that they feel sad or angry. Secondly, provide an accompanying reason for your child’s emotions. Thirdly, hear what your child has to say. Lastly, reassure your child that it is okay to feel the emotion and provide physical reassurance with a much-needed hug or kiss.”
Additionally, parents can also encourage their children to be confident, as this allows them to better deal with stress. One way of boosting confidence in children is through speech and drama programmes, as well as those that incorporate theatrical strategies to boost confidence such as Actors Centre Kids.
A programme powered by MindChamps, Actors Centre Kids is focused on helping children develop self-awareness and focus using imaginative ways to express themselves through theatrical activities. More than a pure speech and drama class, the Actors Centre Kids programme incorporates elements such as theatrical strategies, arts and literature into the curriculum. Collaborating with their peers and expressing themselves without fear contributes to confidence building.
Additionally, parents should continue with their daily routines without making further changes to the already established routines which will require the child to readjust and possibly cause more stress. If a change in routine is unavoidable, parents should prepare their child beforehand so that they are preempted.
How parents can work with preschool teachers in Singapore to reduce stress
Tricia advises that parents and preschool teachers work together to maintain an open-communication as this enables them to share updates on the child’s progress and behaviours observed in the home and school environment. “It should be a reciprocal relationship where both parties have a part to play in ensuring that the best is put forward for the child,” she explains.
Changes in behaviour should be shared for consistent observations of the child in the home and school settings. This can be updated daily or weekly via the centre’s mode of communication, such as the MindChamps app used by all MindChamps PreSchool parents. Parents can choose to connect with both teachers and the clinician together if medical treatment is sought, so that information is attributable to all.
When is further intervention or medical treatment by psychologists required?
Tricia advises parents to observe and address their child’s behaviour objectively. Should a child’s stress intervene with his or her ability to cope with daily life, this should serve as an indicator for them to seek professional help from a trained psychologist or paediatrician.
Consulting mental health professionals can create awareness for parents of preschoolers in Singapore to better understand the issues their child may be facing. “More importantly, seeking professional help would be necessary not only for the child, but also for parents to better understand the underlying issues that the child might be facing. This will provide parents with greater awareness, hence reducing parental stress too,” she adds.
On a final note, parents have to pay close attention to ensure that their preschoolers are not overly stressed and take note of the warning signs to seek help for their children if required.
Written by Jamie Koh