Ages 6-5: Friends, foes and tests

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Cynthia DeLong can tell when her 8-year-old daughter, Eva, is stressed out: She asks lots of questions and usually cries.

DeLong described her daughter - a second-grader at New Albany Elementary School - as energetic, analytical and strong-willed. To help her daughter manage stress, DeLong said they discuss Eva's worries and schedule fun events like family game night and father-daughter time.

"I have to really use conversation to talk her through anything that's coming up," said DeLong, a resident of Blacklick. She's also a second-grade teacher at the same school her daughter attends.

"We're constantly trying to figure out what works and what keeps everybody happy," DeLong said.

Common stressors for grade-school students include grades, tests, divorce, family illness, friends, scary stories, severe weather and being overscheduled, said Kimberly Ministeri, a second- and third-grade school counselor at New Albany Elementary.

Ministeri said younger students tend to have trouble with things like separating from caregivers, while older students seem to worry more about performance and peers.

"Good stress can motivate us and give us energy," Ministeri said. "Bad stress is the way that our body responds to the environment. It can start to come out in different ways. Our body gives us signs when we need to do something to get rid of that stress."

Children affected by stress may experience headaches, crying spells, developmental regression, sleep changes, nightmares and bedwetting. They may also withdraw from peers and family activities.

If a child is struggling with stress, Ministeri suggests that parents maintain a calm demeanor and an open mind. Ask the child what's wrong and make a game out of it, if needed (i.e., share one good thing about your day and have them tell you one).

Cindy Berend said her 12-year-old daughter, Molly, made herself physically ill due to stress while she was in elementary school.

"She wasn't sleeping and neither were we," said Berend, of New Albany.

Molly, who's now a sixth-grader at New Albany Middle School, met with her school counselor as well as an outside counselor to learn ways to manage her stress.

Berend said she's like a different child now. List-making and communication with teachers have been helpful for her daughter.

"You do not want to discourage your children from doing schoolwork, but sometimes we were like, 'It's OK if it's not 100-percent perfect,' " Berend said. "Being such a perfectionist is not always a healthy way to be. She was making herself crazy."

Ten Ways to Help Your Child Manage Stress:

  • Take slow, deep breaths; relax your muscles; tell your worries to get lost and imagine yourself in a relaxing situation.
  • Lock worries in a worry box.
  • Read a book.
  • Play video games.
  • Squish a stress ball or some play dough.
  • Exercise.
  • Talk it out with someone.
  • Listen to music.
  • Kick a ball.
  • Write in a journal.
eSource: Kimberly Ministeri