Do young children experience stress too?

Stress is a natural response

Stress is your body’s natural response to pressure. It is actually your ability to keep yourself safe. Yet, however natural it may be, it is not necessarily a healthy one.

Stress is a result of many things, one extreme event, or a build up of daily occurrences. Each one causing a response in the body and there is also no ‘one trigger fits all.’ So, it is fair to say that many of our young children can experience stress at anytime during their day.

I think that nowadays, the term ‘stress’ has so many connotations to it, that it has become claimed by adults as a phrase to depict how busy they are, how much we have to do and what pressures we are under. Do we really pay it much heed when we think of children, especially our youngest learners of today?

So how does stress affect children?

Small amounts of stress can be motivating and exciting, encouraging children to explore and get involved. This is great, and necessary, plus, if we’re honest, a normal thing to expect. It can become intrinsic in their play when game feel exhilarating and a bit dangerous, enabling them to make sense of the feelings and how to process their experiences within the confines of healthy friendships and nurturing environments.

Natural and developmental stressors can be a benefit for overall child development, taking them forward to next steps of understanding and forming appropriate coping strategies.

The difficulties arise when to stresses put upon young children are not appropriate for their age/stage of development and have detrimental affect on their well being and ability to manage in certain situations.

Negative stresses, inappropriate pressure affects children’s physical being, emotional wellbeing, social interaction and how they behave. Too much long term stress can have severe impact on them, their learning and their health.

Where are the stresses coming from?

There are many factors that contribute to the stress placed upon children; environmental, family, health, additional learning needs, schools and nurseries, to name but a few.

Sometimes, a child a may experience stress from one of these things, but sadly, many children experience adverse stresses from a combination of factors.

Although we know how children learn best – play – unfortunately this is appears to be an unappreciated value and right. As such, more and more I am reading how young children have higher educational expectations placed upon their small shoulders and which are far greater than their young brains are able to process effectively.

Early is definitely not best!

With increases in inappropriate teaching it should come as no surprise that this also means an increase in challenging behaviours. I’d say that children who act out this way are voicing loud and clear that they are not ready for what is being asked of them.

What happens though? Does the teaching change? Rarely. More often than not, the child is penalised in some way for not being able to respond to the requests they are just not ready for.

A so begins the cycle – the stress cycle.

What can be done about it?

We need to be brave and stand up for what we know is right for our young learners.

We need to ensure our approaches are sympathetic and encouraging and actually meet them children where they are so they feel able to reach their potential.

We need to remove the processes that have children feeling as if they cannot do something and believe their is something wring with them as a result.

Come and join me on Wednesday 26th at 8pm

I cannot take the stressors away completely, but I am holding a live training event via zoom that discusses this in more detail, how it presents in children’s challenging behaviours and sharing how a therapeutic, informed approach can make a difference to your children, to you and your settings.

Join my COST-0FF-A-COFFEE TRAINING event to find out more

Together we can bring a change






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