Learn how to recognize and treat stress in children and foster mental health.
Children today are more stressed, anxious, and depressed than in previous generations. This could be due to the constant use of technology, their busy schedules, or other factors.
Today’s lifestyles reflect a changing environment characterized by heightened social pressures and academic demands exacerbated by social media, says Kristin Scott, a Ph.D. psychologist with Children’s Health at UT Southwestern and an Assistant Professor. Although many things can cause stress, these pressures seem more specific to today’s children.
It’s important to help children develop mental health by teaching them self-care skills and stress management.
What is the impact of stress on children and teenagers?
Stress can affect a child’s health and lifestyle on many levels. Children can have difficulty in school or see a decline in academic performance. Stress can affect their performance in sports or other activities.
Dr. Scott says that stress can impact a variety of biological processes. This includes regulating emotions and responding to situations and challenges healthily and productively. This is particularly true for children and teenagers, as their brains are still developing. This adds an obstacle to their ability to make healthy decisions and cope.
Stress in children can affect their health. Stressed children may gain or lose weight. These children may have a greater risk of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Early stress management can improve your child’s mental and physical well-being.
What are the signs of stress among children and teenagers?
Stress can manifest in different ways, depending on the child.
Dr. Scott says knowing your child’s emotions and behaviors is crucial to identify stress. You need to be able to notice any changes in your child’s behavior.
Stress in children can be identified by:
- Lack of energy
- Pain complaints (e.g., stomach ache, headaches)
- Attention or concentration problems at school or home
- Changes in eating habits
- Sleeping habits: Changes
- Refusing to engage in activities that they like or withdrawing socially
Stress and depression in adults can manifest as sadness. However, it may appear as anger or irritability in teens and children. Stress can affect your child, and they are not just “angsty.”
How can I help my children manage stress?
As a family, it’s crucial to identify and reduce stress. Ask your child how they’re doing, and be sure to listen. Assure your child you will always be there for them.
“It’s very important for parents to check in with their children,” says Dr. Scott. Listening to your child’s emotions and stress is very important.
We can help our child to reduce stress by identifying stress areas and burdens such as excessive schoolwork, social media bullying, or too many extracurricular activities. Your child may have to limit their extracurricular activities or drop a class. You should also teach them how to use social media healthily and help them find ways to disconnect.
Children should be taught proactive strategies for stress management. These strategies include:
- Improve sleep hygiene by keeping your child’s bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.
- To relieve anxiety, incorporate stretching, deep breathing, exercise, or meditation into your daily routine.
- Make time in your schedule for self-care. This could be playtime, reading, or any other activity that you find relaxing. Giving your child time to be themselves without the pressure of homework, soccer, or social obligations is important.
“While it’s vital that children stay active, eat healthily, and get enough rest, you also want to provide opportunities for them to participate in activities which reflect their interests, and give them an accomplishment and enjoyment.” according to DR scot manifestation Encourage time management and avoid overscheduling. When you are aware of the times when your child is likely to become stressed, incorporate relaxation techniques during those times.
Dr. Scott encourages parents to show their children healthy behavior and practices to help them learn how to deal with stress.
Dr. Scott says that it’s important for parents to model and teach healthy emotional reactions to stress. Parents can help their children’s resilience by making healthier habits, encouraging emotional, and enunciating a lifestyle that better accommodates change.