Teacher's Essential Role in Stress Management of Young Children
Stress and trauma can be affected young children’s learning and behaviors (Rowe, n.d). In daily routines, children experience some amount of stress as a part of normal learning and development and it helps them to develop skills they need to cope with new situations and build resilience (Rowe, n.d). When stress caused due to arrival of a new sibling, moving house, start a new school or changing of care giver adults can help children to go through these situations and get rid of stress (Harvard University, n.d). But serious situations such as lose or separation of a family member, chronic neglect, divorce of parents, expose to violence or conflict situations, loss of important property or a pet or expose to aggressions would cause stress and trauma in children (Harvard University, n.d).
Piaget explained that birth to two years of children’s age as sensory motor stage where they develop strong attachment with primary caregiver and around the death or separation from primary caregiver will cause a limited grief which will delay their development (Hopkins, 2002). These children need stable environment, love, comforting and predictable schedules (Hopkins, 2002). Piaget explained two to five years as pre-operational stage where children feel the loss or separation of their caregiver as a temporary departure and they show stress and behavioural changes such as anger, sadness and anxiety (Hopkins, 2002). Therefore, they need clear explanation about the death, give lots of love and comfort and ensure that children’s needs are met (Hopkins, 2002).
As young children have difficulty verbalizing their emotions stress can manifest through behavioural changes such as crying, acting irritable or moody, sweating, avoiding the activities they preferred earlier, toilet accidents, show unusually fearful reactions, clingy to caregivers than usual, changes in sleep patterns and having frightening dreams, changes in eating habits, show depression, show aggressive towards others, teeth grinding, hair twirling, nose picking and sucking or biting skin and fingernails (Jewett & Peterson, 2002). Also, they may show physical symptoms such as constant headaches, vomiting or stomach-aches (Jewett & Peterson, 2002). Children imitate the events and repeat those situations through play and may try to harm other children during play activities (Jewett & Peterson, 2002).
According to Bandura’s social learning theory, children learn behaviour through observation of significant people such as parents and teachers and their negative behaviours make children stressful and they tend to repeat these negative behaviours (National Centre for Biotechnology Information, n.d). Stress disrupts the development of brain and other organs in children which increase the risk of stress related diseases and also affect academic achievements such as having difficulty in concentrating in activities, difficulty in learning new skills, have difficulties in moving from one activity to another and lack of problem solving skills (Rouse & Brooks, 2015). Therefore, identifying the negative behaviours is critical in stress management of children.
In order to support children with stress teachers need to recognize when children are stressed, understand and acknowledge their feelings and teach them vocabulary and appropriate ways to express their feelings (Vanderbilt University, n.d). Children show different reactions to stressful situations and when children are around supportive adults they develop coping strategies and are able to become resilient (Ruffin, 2009). Circle time can be used to explain about different feelings, to improve vocabulary by showing them pictures, flash cards and also read books about different emotions (Joseph & Strain, n.d).
Teachers should establish close relationships with every child and parents and support them appropriately during stressful situations (Connor, 2011). For instance, when a child face to a death of a family member teacher must provide extra comfort to the child, use empathetic conversations and explain about death appropriately (Hopkins, 2002). Also, teachers should set up the school environment where all children feel belong and where children do not feel stress due to physical, social or emotional environment and daily routines should be flexible according to their needs (Connor, 2011). Therefore, the teacher’s role in stress management of young children is very important in day to day life. consequently, stress management helps to child’s overall development.
Rowe, J. (n.d). How kids experience stress. Retrieved from https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/health-and-community/enewsletter/how-kids-experience-stress
Harvard University (n.d). Toxic stress. Retrieved from https://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/toxic-stress/
Hopkins, A. R. (2002). Children and grief: The role of early childhood educator. Young Children, 57(1), 40-47. Retrieved from http://webshare.northseattle.edu/fam180/topics/death/Children%20and%20Grief.doc
Jewett, J., & Peterson, K. (2002, December). Stress and young children. ERIC Digest. Retrieved from http://ceep.crc.uiuc.edu/eecearchive/digests/2002/jewett02.pdf
National Centre for Biotechnology Information. (n.d). Understanding the impact of trauma. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207191/
Rouse, C., & Brooks, J. (2015). The future of children: spring 2005: school readiness. New Jersey, NJ: Woodrow Wilson School.
Vanderbilt University. (n.d). Teaching your child to identify and express emotions. Retrieved from http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/familytools/teaching_emotions.pdf
Ruffin, N. (2009). Children and stress: caring strategies to guide children. Retrieved from http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/350/350-054/350-054.html
Joseph, G., Strain, P., Yates, T., & Hemmeter, L. (n.d). Social emotional teaching strategies. Retrieved from http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/modules/module2/script.pdf