Stress is a normal part of human behaviour, but when is it a problem?
We all experience stress in our lives at one time or another. It can push you in new directions, encourage you to think laterally or it can cause you to shrink into an abyss wherein it seems as there is no get-out. We are now in an era wherein children feel the pressures of real-life.
When I was a child, I remember stress being that I might not make it home for tea after playing out and risking the wrath of my parents. Stress was forgetting to put on my super cool wristbands for school, hoping that no one would think I was out-of-fashion (Note: I was never particularly in-fashion).
In our modern day society, children are hugely affected by stress, in plenty of ways.
In my opinion, the friendships that I have experienced in the past few years in schools are incredibly complicated. Gone are the days where children have a disagreement over who was or wasn’t ‘out’ in Tag. Children now seem much more mature, even in Primary school and the emergence of technology has had a drastic effect on the way that they communicate.
Simple arguments now turn into monstrosities because everyone in the class is aware of them, through a simple message on a Whatsapp group – there’s no escaping it.
These come from us as teachers, parents, peers and too commonly themselves. Teachers have their best interests at heart but this can sometimes feel like nagging to them. Their parents expect more of them because they act older than they are. I have heard many parents exclaim that ‘they would never have spoken to an adult like that’, and this is fair a lot of the time.
Peer pressure has always been around, it’s supposedly a ‘rite of passage’, but does that make it right? Very recently, I gave my class a practise test for Maths. Seeing the look of panic on their young, naive faces, I felt awful. I had just told them that that needn’t worry, that this was just to show off what we know. However, the pressure that they put on themselves seems more important and they can’t seem to shift it.
Every day, they are faced with expectations of how they should look, speak, act, think. They watch endless streams of blogs on YouTube and want to be the people who are inspiring millions, who are the face of youth today. They desperately try to conform to society’s ideal of who they should be.
The point of this post is to express how wrong this is. Yes, stress may be a part of life. But children are just that, children. Why should they be forced to experience the perils and uncertainty of the modern world?
It didn’t do us any harm to be children. As a relatively young teacher, I can see the monumental gap between how I was feeling as a child, and how my friends were feeling, and how my class are feeling every single day. Let them worry, let them cry, let them be silly and laugh about funny noises, let them be children because once your chance has gone, it’s gone.
As teachers, we should be the people who are helping them deal with stresses that they don’t need to have.
Tell them every day that you appreciate their efforts, that you’ve noticed that they have been putting their hand up more in class. Tell them that stress is okay sometimes, and that we just need to find ways to deal with it. Be the one that they can trust and when they do come and talk to you, make sure that you listen, because something that might seem trivial to you might make them feel as though their world is crumbling down.
Be that person who remembers that they’re children – because they’ll remember you.