The increase in teenage suicide cases is one of the most devastating results of inadequate skills in dealing with stress. Stress in children is nothing new. Every generation was, or is under some of its own unique stresses. Fortunately, at the present age, a lot of information is available on helping children deal with stress before hyper arousal becomes a way of life, from which physical and mental illness and emotional problems begin.
Stress is our body’s response to a demand. Just being alive requires adaptive responses from our mind and body. Pioneering biological scientist Hans Seyle states that "Our reservesof adaptive energy could be compared to an inherited fortune from which we can make withdrawals but there is no proof that we can also make additional deposits." Children should not start making withdrawals of these resources early in life.
Children have less maneuverability to deal with their stressors than do adults. Expectations can create enormous stress loads on children. Many of the bright and above average to highly skilled children are almost emotionally immobilized by expectations from themselves, parents, teachers, and peers. They need help sorting out which of these expectations are realistic before they get caught in the traps of perfectionism or narcissism. Worse, they may just fold-up and perform poorly resulting to dropping out. Therefore, expectations must be set in a realisticlevel while keeping in balance the training of coping with the realistic factors and challenges of today’s society.
John Q. Baucom, a writer on teenage suicide, identifies the following characteristics in a family whose children do not suffer from depression or attempt suicide.
1. Parents admitted mistakes and apologize to their children.
2. Children openly expressed emotions, positive and negative, and were not punished for expressing anger. However, there were logical consequences for breaking family rules.
3. Parents allowed each child’s unique identity to flourish.
4. Parents encouraged their children’s participation in athletics and attended their games.
5. The children had a variety of adult friends they could trust.
6. Parents made friends with their children’s teenage friends.
7. Parents did not criticize with fear or guilt.
8. Parents did not compare one child with another.
9. A belief in God gave an added reservoir of strength.
Since many stressors cannot be avoided, let us give children the skills to deal with them. Paramount in a child’s arsenal for effectively handling stresses is the feeling of self-worth. Parents and teachers can do much to enhance a child’s self-esteem.