Stress In Preschool Children


Mr Adrian Lau, Psychologist & Therapist, Mount Elizabeth Charter Behavioural Health Services

Stress has become so much a part of our daily lives that it is hard to find someone who says there is no stress in his/her life. We know that today’s children are also faced with stress from school work – they learn in primary school what we were taught only in secondary school.

But will I be stretching it too far to suggest that pre-school children may also be stressed? What are the possible sources of stress for pre-school children?

Parents’ expectations

Parents are so concerned with children’s academic ability, they tend to hurry them in learning the languages. I would have used the term “learning their ABC’s” but parents are skipping the ABC’s and doing more advanced stuff. In the hope for their children to have a head start in school, parents are teaching infants with flash cards.

I am not criticizing flash cards, but do not do it at the expense of robbing children of their childhood. Allow them to be children. Think back of your own childhood days, try to remember what were your happy moments – I bet it is not when you were learning to read or write.

Tension at home

If the relationship between adults at home is tensed, the tension will invariably be passed on to the children. If there is direct conflict like quarrels and fights, young children will feel insecure and frightened. Keep the home atmosphere peaceful. It should provide warmth and security.

Resolve inter-personal disputes and improve your communications. Seek professional help if you think it is not manageable.

When it comes to disciplining your children, do not lose your cool. Never give a punishment out of anger. Child abuse is a serious offence, not to mention it will leave a deep scar in your child. Parents with anger management problems should work on their own issues to prevent perpetuating the anger in the next generation.


Do not overlook sibling rivalries. Watch out for siblings bullying younger children by hitting or pinching, especially when they are still too young to complain. Bullying can make children feel unhappy and frightened. It makes them feel unsafe and think there is be something wrong with them.

Exposure to disturbing images on television

Minimize your child’s exposure to jarring situations, whether in real life or on television. Do not let your television set become your baby-sitter. Young children who still cannot differentiate between reality and make-belief will face tremendous stress watching violence on TV with actors getting hurt and wailing in pain.

Even in real life situations, like news report and images of disaster or political conflicts, explain to children in a simple, non-dramatic way and reassure them of their safety.

Beware of tourist attractions that screen images of war-time terror, like executions and torture – young children need not be educated on such things.

Besides minimizing the sources of stress, parents should also remember the following 4 P’s:

Physical contact
Hold and hug your children frequently, it will help them to relax and also build their self-esteem

Play with them

This will promote parent-child bonding and children will grow up happier. If the play involves physical activity like kicking a ball and running, it can help burn off stressful feelings.

Personal time
Allow some time for children to be left on their own, let them play on their own or have some quiet time to daydream. This advice is only for parents who are already giving enough attention to their children, not as an excuse if you have not put in quantity time with them.

Praise your child

Help children find something they are good at and tell them how proud you are of them. Do not miss out the opportunities to praise them – catch them doing good things instead of catching them behaving badly. Praises are positive reinforcement for good behaviour; it works better than giving punishments.

Health services

The psychological and behavioural health facility of the Parkway Group of hospitals, Mount Elizabeth-Charter Behavioural Health Services provides health services for both adults and children/adolescents.

We provide counselling as well as psychological assessments such as IQ Test and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and others.

For enquiries, please call our Helpline 1800 738 9595.


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