Stress is an inevitable yet essential component of life – something that is impossible to exclude from daily life. The beauty of life is that excess of anything destroys the fragile harmony of living. Likewise, excessive stress becomes a disease promoting agent and constitutes a major health concern. This can be detected from a tender age, as according to the American Psychological Association over 1 in 3 children experience symptoms of stress such as headaches and difficulty in sleeping.
However, even with these stats, only 13% of parents believe children’s headaches are results of stress and with 44% of children that report sleep difficulties, only 13% of parents actually believe their child has trouble sleeping. It is hard to confirm whether a child is stressed due to their lack of knowledge about what that really means, this is why it is important as an adult to educate children on stress, how it occurs and what it can be its impacts to increase awareness.
Doctors and specialists have come up with various stress coping strategies acquired through experience. They may vary individually, with some appropriate and successful, and others inappropriate and unsuccessful. Many of these coping strategies, however, are learned during the formative years of development – one of the greatest being “life skills”.
Life skills are being taught to assist children in successfully dealing with stressful life events, even before they occur. Successfully coping with stressful events at a tender age can minimise the acquisition of unhealthy stress responses which could promote illness and disease.
Here are the ways in which acquiring life skills early would help in minimising stress:
Many versions of stressful life events are found to be of value-laden nature and require clarity, in order to sort them through. Yet, the finalising process may be quite difficult due to pre-imposed values placed upon involved persons by society, family, religion, etc. Those imposed values may not be in accordance with values of those making the decision. Hence, educators need to strengthen ethics clarification skills in children by creating an atmosphere where they can assess opinions and beliefs on value-laden issues, arriving at an individual position statement which will shape future actions.
Decision making is a decisive life skill, which requires to be developed from a formative age. Since decision-making in many stress-filled situations can be a difficult task due to heightened emotion, superfluous influences, etc it is, therefore, important that an individual has a constant experience with decision-making related factors, increasing their level of intuitiveness. Today, such stress perhaps can be lessened if skills are acquired in the process of effective decision-making. Educators, with the help of like skills, can generate awareness of the impacts of particular decisions amongst young children. This would equip them with correct tools to come up with the right decision required to enrich their lives.
Effective communication skill is a critical component in dealing with potentially stressful situations, owing to their socio-commiserating properties. Numerous life events are interpersonal in nature and if effective communication skills are not honed, expression of personal feelings cannot take place, creating a space for negativity to breed. Bottling up of emotions cultivates a potentially stressful environment- making way for life skills to play its part. Life skills activities promoting the art of communication in the classroom or group setting can greatly enhance a “sharing” atmosphere. A point to be noted – these activities must be voluntary, with students given the flexibility to “pass” and not participate.
While conflict of inner self with outer perception is inevitable, confrontation with stressful situations needs to be encouraged rather than avoided.