Observing How Kids Cope with Stress

Posted on August 23, 2015 I Written By

Crash Uncle is father to three amazing kids, a C-130 Navigator in the USAF, and Crash Dad's favorite brother.

Life is full of all kinds of stress, both good and bad, and each of us handles it differently.  I would say that how I deal with stress has also changed over time depending on my situation as well as just who I have become as a person.  Ten years ago when I was living in California and owned a motorcycle, I often relieved stress by taking a ride down to the Pacific Coast Highway and pulling over somewhere that I could just sit on the beach and listen to the waves crash in front of me.  Since I’ve had kids I generally have to keep it closer to home so I spend some time reading or writing about airplanes to help unwind.

But I don’t think it is quite that simple for kids.

My kids have been under a fair amount of stress for the last couple of months due to a move overseas for my job.  We packed up all of our stuff back in June and the family took off while I finished up some work and joined them in the beginning of July.  After spending almost two months with family and friends we arrived in Japan about a week and a half ago and, as one would expect, it has been a bit of a culture shock for all of us.  What has been interesting to me is how my kids have dealt with it all.

When they first left home they missed their friends a little, and me up until I joined them, but they were spending so much time with cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents that I guess that kind of compensated for the friends they had left behind.  They also stayed super busy with zoos, splash pads, aquariums, pools, hikes, and various other distractions while we were living out of suitcases at no less than five different houses and a handful of hotel rooms.  I really was quite impressed with how well they were holding up all the way to the end.

You could tell that once we got to our last stop in Washington they were starting to get a little anxious; not to mention just being done with going so many different places and not having much of their own stuff.  This became evident first in Crash Niece #1 who started to become quite sad at night around bedtime.  This was not your typical, “I don’t want to go to bed!” sadness, but rather a need to be held and even a few tears.  When I asked her what was wrong all she would say is that she missed our two dogs that we had found new homes for before leaving Arkansas.  A few days later Crash Nephew started to say the same thing when he would just randomly get sad.

As sweet as that was it was a little shocking to me because the two older kids hadn’t show any real great sadness when we had found the dogs new homes.  However, as this new scary adventure became imminent, that was the part of their old home that they latched onto.  Not their friends they had left behind, or our house or trampoline, and not even the family members that we likely won’t see much during our time in Japan.  Instead it was a couple of dogs that they had played with a fair amount, but by no means were they attached at the hip.  If anything, I would say the youngest, who is only two, was the most attached to the dogs and played with them the most of the kids, but she wasn’t the one missing them.

I don’t know that I had any profound epiphany because of this experience, but it just wasn’t something I had every really thought about until now.  We moved a lot when I was a kid, six different houses by the time I was 12, but I don’t really remember being stressed about it, or even how I really felt about it at all.  As an adult I have moved even more than that, and my job pretty much guarantees I will move some more.  It will be really interesting to see how my kids adjust and cope with all of these changes in their lives, as well as what Crash Aunt and I can do to help make it easier for them.

We just moved into our new house over the weekend so all of us are pretty excited to have our own beds and toys and such back.  I’m sure that will help all of us as we adjust to our new life in Japan.  It will likely also help as the kids get back into school in the next couple of weeks.  As much as Crash Niece #1 loves school maybe that will be her new security blanket during these first few months.  Who knows?  All I really know is that my kids never cease to surprise me in ways that I never would have even considered.