Much that goes on in our world can cause problems for children, just as it does for adults. Rapid physical growth over short periods of time and concerns about changes in their bodies can cause stress and loss of self-esteem. Various problems in school with studies, teachers or peers, may be troubling a child. There are many fears that can plague children: fear of the potential danger in our schools today, fear of the dark, fear of going to sleep, fear of doctors, dentists and needles, etc. Many children experience the embarrassment of habits they find hard to break, like bed-wetting or thumb sucking. A new baby or other addition to the family can cause undue stress. Loss of their own bedroom space due to a new addition to the family, or having to move to a smaller place can make children unhappy. An underlying fear of kidnapping and other abuses may affect our children far more than we realize. It is difficult to keep such news away from a child's hearing, these days.
With children, the world revolves around them until experience helps expand that world. As they are the “center,” then everything is where they are. If there are problems in the family, they take on those as their own. If parents are having trouble in relating well, their children can become fearful and guilty, as if they were the cause or should have prevented it in some way. This is what creates “ADULT CHILDREN.” A recent client of mine was the oldest son of his family. He saw his mother beaten, nightly, and both he and his brother received the rage of a drunken father. Yet, he could not help his mother or protect his younger brother. This left him scarred with tremendous guilt and fear, which he carried into his marriage and his relationship with his own sons.
School and Learning Influences
In school, common problems for many children are the loss of a friend who moves away, being shamed or frightened by a teacher or principal, the death or serious illness of a school peer or teacher, boredom with school and having to make new friends. Unfamiliarity with schoolwork, or falling behind in a subject can cause excessive stress. The insistence upon “correct” performance in front of others in a classroom can be extremely hard on a shy child. Threats or bullying by other children and the general fear and pressure of drugs and guns, in many schools, are serious concerns and add tremendous stress for certain children.
The Media - Our modern century provides an enormous spread of negative influences on our children. Television and movies regularly present violence, sex and innuendo as the norm. Shallowness and self-centeredness are projected by sit-coms on TV by unmarried 30 year olds who are totally wrapped up in themselves. Advertising and acquisition are other primary images, as parents go crazy trying to get the child whatever the child wants. Pre-teens understand that being very thin or buff are the models they must follow or they will not be acceptable to their peers. Young girls, especially, begin worrying about their weight at an earlier and earlier age.
News events on TV - War and the resulting migration of homeless families, famine and other tragedies within countries, kidnappings, abuse and other mayhem against children, and the latest disease or other terrors are projected on the screen, nightly, inundating our children, just as it does adults. Children are just as impacted as their parents by this constant onslaught of negative messaging.
What adults consider important in life - Millionaires seem barely out of diapers. A car at age 16 is a must. Slimness for women and powerful “pecs” for men are major images projected by television, movies and magazines. Fear of retirement, ill health and the desire for youthfulness remind us, “For god's sake, don't get old or your life will be over.” Millions are spent every year in keeping us beautiful forever, and in staving off eventual death. Children receive this information by words or inferences from the time they are born, unless they have parents who find ways to help them keep a balanced approach to life and living.
When children are brought to a counselor's office, they come with their parents. Those parents may reflect the other factors that contribute to a child's problem. Parents often lose sight of the impact of major events or stress in the family upon the children. Often, adults make the mistake of believing that children are resilient. They do not speak to them about difficult situations, yet will speak “around,” or in front of them, as if they were not there or would not understand. Many times they do not bother to ask the question of “why,” when a child is troubled. Often, parents perceive their children's problems as rather unimportant, in the light of their own difficulties.
Problems many children face, in family life, are dissatisfied parents who can never be pleased, being compared to a sibling, an older sibling leaving for school without them, a death in the family, divorce or other separation, loss of a parent or favorite grandparent, and moving away from friends or members of the family. A depressed, anxious or highly-strung parent, family members who are chronic worriers, and otherwise negative influences affect the outlook of children. High stress is created by an abusive sibling who teases or shames, arguments or violence between parents, threats of harm, an addictive parent or step-parent, physical, sexual or verbal abuse of the children, a parent or sibling who is physically ill much of the time. These must be considered when dealing with the child's presenting symptoms.
Influence of Peers
Although possibly more strongly felt once children reach pre-teens, even smaller children are affected by their friend's choices and experiences. Moving to a new school, having to make new friends, handling bullies, unfamiliarity with schoolwork, as well as falling behind in a subject or being “behind” the other kids, and other comparisons, are common problems for many children. Being teased for being the “wrong” height or weight, or for not fitting the status quo embarrasses some children. The struggle to belong and rejection by groups become especially hard on pre-teens and teenagers.
How Stress Can Affect Children
When children are experiencing unrelenting stress or are worried, whether or not they are conscious of it, there are warning signs for those who have the eyes to see. Schoolwork may begin to slide. A child may begin to lose things on a consistent basis, steal, become accident-prone, have headaches or stomachaches, bite their nails or pull hair or lashes. They may return to wetting the bed, after having been dry for some time. Health problems may start cropping up. Other people may notice a dramatic change in disposition. The child may begin to stop wanting to go to school, or begin to cause problems in the classroom. They may lie and have other avoidance patterns. They may turn to drugs or alcohol. They may begin to have trouble sleeping, experience frequent nightmares or sleep walk.
Source: CHILDREN AND HYPNOSIS by Del Hunter Morrill, M.S., C.C.H.
Antonia Stuart-James is an English Hypnotherapist in Belgium helping people make positive change.