Often times, as adults, we think our children don’t have a care in the world. We think they should have no reason to have stress or worries, but a study done by the American Psychological Association says we should rethink that. In fact, it revealed that 1 in every 5 children worry a great deal and stress like that can take a toll both mentally and physically. Just like everything else, knowledge is power so let’s explore signs to watch for, reasons why children tend to be stressed out, and ways to help them cope.
Carrying the Weight of the World
When a child’s only responsibilities are to focus on school, help around the house, and possibly partake in an extracurricular activity or two, parents often dismiss the notion that their child is under stress. After all, they have no bills to pay, mouths to feed, why should they be stressed, right? Actually, we couldn’t be more wrong!
Kids under the age of 17 have noted that they often feel stressed about keeping good grades in school, financial struggles within their family, and getting into a good college. Frequently, stress comes from peer groups and pressure to fit in at school, parents going through a divorce, switching schools, and other outside sources. This pressure to perform at a high level makes their stress unbearable.
Stress can also come from what they observe in their surroundings. Every day, the news gets worse and worse, it seems. Is the TV on where they are listening and worrying about what is occurring in the world? Do they overhear you talking about marital problems, financial burdens, or possibly an ill loved one? You may think they aren’t listening and taking it all in, but kids are more observant than we think.
How will you know if your child is having a high level of stress? There are some key things that you can look for, such as:
- Short temper
- Feeling sick; upset stomach
- Wanting to withdraw
- Bed wetting
- Trouble Concentrating
- Thumb sucking, in younger children
- Big change in academic performance
- Defying authority
Ways to Minimize and Cope with Stress
If you found yourself able to check off some of the signs above, then most likely your child is like many others and is experiencing some level of stress in their life. Stress that is left to fester and build up can cause many other problems, even in children and young adults. Some youth have had cognitive impairment, depression, increased heart rate, and suffered from exhaustion.
No parent wants their child to suffer from those ailments, especially at such a young age so it’s important to have some tools in your belt that will help you and your child work together to minimize the stress they are experiencing.
First off, make sure to let them know that you are there for them. This doesn’t have to always be a big, forced, and drawn out, serious conversation. Just by being present with them and asking about their day can go a long way. They need to know that you are there and made time for them each day.
If they don’t feel like talking, don’t push. If you happen to know what they are stressed about but they don’t want to talk, just let them know that you’re ready when they are. They’ll eventually come around.
If your child will discuss what is bothering them, listen first, and then do not minimize their worry. Instead, work with your child to brainstorm ways to improve their situation and reduce the stress. We are a society who values being busy but maybe it’s time to cut back. Do they have too many obligations and would they feel better if perhaps they did just baseball instead of baseball, soccer, and tennis? Freeing up some downtime might make a huge difference.
Sometimes it helps talking to a teacher or other adult if they don’t want to open up to a parent. You may be disappointed if they don’t choose you to confide in, but the important thing is that they are hashing out their stressors with a trusted adult and making positive progress.
As we mentioned, the news can be particularly worrisome so if it’s on or being discussed amongst adults, take the information being discussed and tweak it to fit the age of the child. Sometimes just an explanation can set a young ones mind at ease. Older teens may ask lots of details, while younger children don’t need to know all of the nitty gritty.
Often times books can be a subtle way of showing coping mechanisms for stress. Good books can be a fun, less threatening way of showing how others faced stressful situations and made changes to better their situation or reduce their load.
Lastly, if you have exhausted every avenue but your child is still facing extreme stress, it may be best to have them speak with a counselor or psychologist to work through their challenges. Keep in mind, some stress is perfectly natural. Everyone has some degree of stress, from toddlers to adults, but when it starts to affect daily living or your health, it’s time to take action.