There was a time, when children from infancy to five years implemented natural stress relief strategies with no special initiation into preschool stress support. Women who stayed home to raise their family never felt the need for ‘special strategies’ for coping with and managing anger of kids. Most adults just made use of common sense to help the little one’s cope.
Due to drastic changes in the external and internal environments today, preschool teachers require knowledge of modern stress relief techniques for their young kids. Unfortunately, however, for lack of that knowledge, they amplify instead of reducing the stress of the kids.
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Definition of preschool stress
Preschool stress is essentially a young child’s response to the spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional demands made by situations. When the response is positive, the child experiences eustress. On the other hand, when there is a negative response, the child suffers distress.
Things stress relief should focus on
1. Preschool stress is not about the teacher's demand on the child to make her/him sit quietly for the story circle. It is the child’s response to the requirement. It is important that stress relief focus on the response.
2. Preschool stress is not about the teacher's attempt to make the child count 1 to 10. It is the child’s response to the requirement. It is important that stress relief focus on the response.
3. Preschool stress is not about the mother's demand that the child stop crying at preschool. It is the child’s response to the requirement. It is important that stress relief focus on the response.
Preschool stress and stressors
Most teachers confuse stressors with stress. Preschool stressors are certainly an inescapable and inevitable part of the child’s life. However, it is important not to view stressors as the reason of stress. The former are merely demands made on the child to learn, cooperate, comply with, share, and more.
On the contrary, preschool stress is the response of the preschool child to the demands made on them. In case the child accepts demands willingly and cheerfully, s/he will feel a sense of eustress. It releases endorphins, often called ‘feel good chemicals’ into the bloodstream. There is no need for any kind of stress relief for eustress.
However, when the little one rejects and rebels against demands, a sense of distress takes charge. It is a negative situation that causes the release of adrenalin into the bloodstream. The child gets fearful or combative, and completely non-compliant. There is a definite need for stress relief here.
The primary reason for a child experiencing "distress" instead of "eustress" is their internal response to giving up to control or not having anyone in control.
Like adults, preschool children also need control in their life. They also require boundaries. However, they do not want anyone to take control of or dominate over them. They prefer handling situations on their own.
The popular expression "terrible twos" came from the ‘terrible’ developmental stage of two-year olds who cry aloud ‘no’ to any control, throwing tantrums. At the same time, they require someone to cling to. The ECE teacher should understand this sensitive psychology of the kids and help them feel reassured, not confused and stressed out.