If you see any of these symptoms of stress, take them seriously. They indicate that your child is experiencing changes and challenges which are beyond his coping ability. He likely is unable to verbalize the pressure he feels, so it's up to you to help him cope with the stressors.
Parents can help children feel confident and capable, as well as provide escape valves
for stress buildup. Children can bounce back from stressful situations. They just need guidance and instruction in coping skills. Below is a list of ways you can help your child.
All Ages :
Young Child :
- Be sensitive.
- Protect your child from the stressor, if possible.
- Show affection (e.g. hugs).
- Spend time with your child.
- Encourage stress-reducing activities (e.g. laughter, exercise).
- Promote adequate rest.
- Provide structure and routine.
- Plan quiet time into each day. Simplify your child's schedule.
- Offer nutritious meals.
- Reassure your child that his reactions are normal, and that all children have pressures/stress.
- Be a good listener.
- Provide a spiritual base.
- Help your child develop supportive friendships.
- Give positive feedback often. Praise her accomplishments.
- Have realistic expectations.
- Be a good role model. Show positive stress-management skills.
- Tell your child you will always be there... and then be there.
Older Child :
- Offer crayons and paper so she can scribble or draw her feelings.
- Provide security objects (e.g. blanket, stuffed toy).
- Play games that help your child with stressor (e.g. peek-a-boo for separation issues).
- Be silly. Tickle each other. Do things your child will think are funny.
- Try having your child act out his feelings with puppets or stuffed animals.
- Teach her to separate from the stress (e.g. count to 10, put herself on a time-out, listen to music).
- Tell your child you have noticed something is bothering him.
- Try "20 questions" if you are not certain what is bothering her.
- Encourage role-play.
- Provide markers and paper. Look for clues in his artwork.
- Help her think through the consequences of her actions.
- Teach relaxation techniques (e.g. deep breathing).
- Be direct. Sidestepping an issue only makes the stress worse.
- Watch a funny movie together, and laugh aloud.
- Suggest journaling - keep a regular diary.
- Teach meditation techniques
- Help him "take a break" from his stress.
- Talk with her about her feelings and concerns in a non-judgmental way.
- Help your child think positively.
- Share 60 ways to relax.
- Help him develop a low-stress lifestyle.
Do not hesitate to seek counseling from a qualified professional, especially if the symptoms are prolonged or numerous.
Teenagers, like adults, may experience stress everyday and can benefit from learning stress management skills. Most teens experience more stress when they perceive a situation as dangerous, difficult, or painful and they do not have the resources to cope. Some sources of stress for teens might include:
- school demands and frustrations
- negative thoughts and feelings about themselves
- changes in their bodies
- problems with friends
- unsafe living environment/neighborhood
- separation or divorce of parents
- chronic illness or severe problems in the family
- death of a loved one
- moving or changing schools
- taking on too many activities or having too high expectations
- Family financial problems.
Some teens become overloaded with stress. When it happens, inadequately managed stress can lead to anxiety, withdrawal, aggression, physical illness, or poor coping skills such as illicit drug use.
When we perceive a situation as difficult or painful, changes occur in our minds and bodies to prepare us to respond to danger. This "fight, flight, or freeze" response includes, faster heartbeat and breathing rate, increased blood to muscles of arms and legs, cold or clammy hands and feet, upset stomach and/or a sense of dread.
The same mechanism that turns on the stress response can turn it off. As soon as we decide that, a situation is no longer dangerous, changes can occur in our minds and bodies to help us relax and calm down. This “relaxation response" includes decreased heart and breathing rate and a sense of well being. Teens that develop a "relaxation response" and other stress management skills feel less helpless and have more choices when responding to stress.
Parents can help their teen in these ways
- Monitor if stress is affecting their teen's health, behavior, thoughts, or feelings closely. Listen to teens and watch for overloading.
- Learn and model stress management skills.
- Support involvement in sports and other prosocial activities.