Adults cannot avoid feeling stress or undergoing stressful situations, it comes with the territory. However, the reality is that even young girls and teens need to overcome stressors as a part of growing up. More often than not, we underestimate the amount of stress that young girls and teens go through, and if these stressors are not managed early on, the effects can be (in a lot of cases) detrimental.
Does stress really influence young girls and teens?
The simple answer is yes. There is no denying it, or trying to desensitize the matter. We may think that a child’s stress is minuscule to what adults have to face on a daily basis, but we need to realize that stress is relative. Something that may stress me out may not necessarily stress you out. And more importantly, we need to see the stressor from the child’s perspective. The stress that a child undergoes is equivalent to the stress that an adult experiences. It’s as the saying goes: “put yourself in their shoes before you judge”.
Adults, if you think you have stress please take some time to think about all the children who have to bear and deal with “adult stressors”. A lot of children have to cope with stressful situations that is beyond their years, such as parents with addictions, homelessness, dysfunctional households and in some cases the absence of parents/ parental figures. They experience the same stress which an adult would normally have to overcome, if not more. It’s not OK to let our children have to overcome our stressors, but it is a sad reality.
Of course, not all children have to deal with “adult” stress, but that doesn’t mean that their stresses are less important to manage. In fact, the earlier children learn how to deal with stress – even everyday stresses – the better, because it will be easier for them to get through life’s little (and big) anxieties. Stress plays a very big role in a child or teen’s mental and physical health. It is not uncommon for young children and teens to develop anxiety disorders. Actually teens have reported that they face higher stress levels than what some adults have reported.
The stressors of the young
Then, what are some stressors that young girls (and boys) and teens undergo? Let’s have a look and put it into perspective. If we as adults can understand what a young child or teen is going through, it will be easier to help a child deal with, and overcome these stresses.
Being a child or teen means having to go to school and with that comes academic stress. Academic stress is not just the usual routines of getting through tests, exams, projects and schoolwork, but a lot of the time academic stress is brought on by adults (or parents). The pressure to perform well, to get good grades, to avoid failure etc. can really eat at a child or teen’s mental well-being and even their confidence. It is important to manage these stress levels from the child’s, as well as the parent’s side, before it gets out of hand or becomes too enforced. Yes, it’s important to do well and putting some degree of stress may be necessary, but it is important to manage this stress and be aware of how much stress a child is under.
There is also physical stress that children experience, for example bodily changes (especially during the adolescent years). Children are constantly growing which leads them to experience growing pains. This in itself can be quite stressful for a child as they may not understand why their bodies are sore a lot of the time. When it comes to adolescence, one thing that is well-known is that you undergo a lot of hormonal changes and physiological changes (hair growing in seemingly unusual places, shifts in your metabolism, the start and progress of your monthly cycle, i.e. your period, the development and growth of your breasts, acne, and so forth). Adolescence can be exciting for some girls because they feel that they are maturing and becoming women and the fact that their bodies become more “womanly” can give a girl confidence. However, this isn’t the case for all girls. Oppositely, a lot of girls may feel frightened, scared and withdrawn because of these changes, which in turn leads to an increase in stress and anxiety levels. This was the situation in my case, I was terrified about what was happening and I didn’t want it to. It is therefore very important for girls to be educated in order to ease their minds and stress levels. Growing up is a beautiful and exciting process which we all need to try to embrace.
Hormonal changes during this time of adolescence results in unexplained emotional responses which leads to emotional stress. A child or teen may not always understand the feelings they are going through (especially during this time) which in itself can be very stressful. To top it off, there are also the stresses of explained emotions – when you feel angry or sad etc. for a specific reason – whereby in your younger years you are able to express in their rawest forms, but as you grow up you are no longer able to (it’s as if you are almost meant to suppress them or restrain yourself a bit to meet social standards).
Speaking of social standards, this is where the next stressor comes to play. Social stress – one of the major ones. With this comes the pressure of meeting other people’s expectations, the fear of rejection, general peer pressure, and the list goes on. This added pressure may often lead to anti-socialism of just trying to escape it all, which may result in even more stress of having no support. These stressors may ultimately develop your personality and how to cope with social pressures moving forward, but its important to have support from other people. It is during this time that one should focus on helping to develop a girl or teen’s self-esteem and self-image, as this could help them cope with social stressors in a manner that honours their own personal beliefs.
As a growing child, a girl (or boy) can also undergo identity stress – trying to find oneself in relation to others and even in relation to one’s self. This is perhaps most prevalent when a child starts to develop an awareness of their sexuality and develop ideas around their sexual orientation, or when a person starts to notice changes in their interests, hobbies and even their personality. As adults, we undergo a lot of changes as we go through life, and this is the result of different experiences. What makes this different for a teen is that this is the first time that they are made aware of the changes in personality.
Give them back their childhood
It is clear that not only adults experience stress, but that children and teens can undergo the same. As times are changing, and the information and technological era is advancing more and more each day, children’s stresses increase rapidly. Where are the days when children could do what children do best – being a child? We need to give children and teens their childhood back, so that they can embrace the joys of growing up, before entering the daunting world of “adulting”. How I wish for the days of my childhood, where the worries were lessened. But again, that’s not to say that I didn’t have any worries or stress as a child. There were plenty, but if we as adults can support children and teens during these vital years, teach them how to manage stress early on, then they will still be able to live their youthful days as simply the youth.
Now that we have identified some stresses that the young undergo, we need to know how to manage it effectively. Please continue reading here for some healthy and unhealthy ways to deal with stress.