Mental Health Awareness: Stress in Children and Teens

Children and youth are as likely to experience stress as adults, but are just on the start of their lifelong journey to learning skills to verbalize it and develop coping techniques.  This past year has been especially stressful due to the fears and uncertainty with the pandemic, political unrest, frequent changes in the way we are allowed to live our lives due to the pandemic guidelines.  Kids need routine and expectations for security, so they are certainly affected with increased stress. Other stressors are too much media and technology; parents’ concerns about job loss, money, or struggling relationships; divorce; a death in the family; moving; bullying; concerns with doing well in sports and school. Being a kid isn’t all fun and games!

From an October 2020 Guide2Research study consider the following:
   - Seven out of ten teens in the U.S. (13-17 years old) have named anxiety or depression as a major problem among their peers
   - 75% of U.S. high school students expressed boredom, anger, sadness, fear or stress while in school
   - On a 10-point scale, where normal values for adults are 3.8, American teens rated their stress rate at an average score of 5.8
   - Three quarters (75%) of American high schoolers and half of middle schoolers described themselves as “often or always feeling stressed” by schoolwork.

Another study indicated that parents way underestimate the level of their child’s stress so it is vitally important to tune in to signs your child is experiencing abnormal or chronic stress and talk with him about what worries or stresses him.  
Signs of stress in a child may include:   
   - Lack of energy
   - Increased complaints of pain, stomach aches, headaches, etc
   - Difficulty paying attention or concentrating at home or in school
   - Change in eating or sleeping habits
   - Avoiding activities they enjoy or withdrawing from social interaction
   - Irritability and anger                               

Remind your children that stress can be beneficial in helping them to develop social skills, do well in school or sports, and gain self-confidence by working through and conquering fears and challenges.  
But help them learn ways to cope with stress such as :
   - Help them to set limits on gaming and social media, reduce exposure to violent news and lead by your own example.                                                                                                                          
- Keep calm and express your anger in appropriate ways. Invite your child to talk, laugh, cry or express anger when he or she needs to.                               
   - Help them problem solve ways to reduce stress, such as managing their responsibilities and time.  It’s okay to say no and cut back on a hectic schedule of activities.
   - Teach children about consequences and let them learn responsibility, both good and bad.
   - Provide them with some control, allow them to make decisions that affect them.
   - Develop trust and let your child know that mistakes are learning opportunities
   - Be a good listener and acknowledge your child’s feelings.  If he won’t talk, share a similar experience and how you felt at the time.
   - Have fun and play with them, no matter their age.  Joke and laugh.
   - Positive thoughts, deep breathing, exercise, relaxation techniques. (Find apps online)
   - Encourage drawing or journaling about what they’re feeling.
   - Teach your children to pray - to turn their worries over to God

Recognize when the usual tricks aren’t working and get your child in to the doctor or psychologist or school counselor.

An excellent YouTube 7 minute video that is geared to kids and teens but appropriate for the whole family is called: STRESS MANAGEMENT TIPS FOR KIDS AND TEENS, by

For more Mental Health support information visit our Mental Health page.

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