Childhood isn't all fun and games. Even young children can feel worried and stressed.
Stress can come from outside, such as family, friends, and school. It can also come from children themselves. Just like adults, children often expect too much of themselves and then feel stressed when they feel that they have failed.
It is important to recognize stress in children and teens and help them find healthy coping strategies. The strategies they learn often stay with them into adulthood.
Generally, anything that may cause children fear and anxiety can cause stress. This can include being away from home, starting a new school or moving to a new location, being separated from parents or caregivers, worrying about school and getting along with others, worrying about their changing bodies, and worrying about the future.
The following are some common signs of stress in different age
Signs of stress in children and teens
Preschool and toddlers
Preteens and teens
Eating and sleeping
problems, including nightmares
Fear of being
Going back to infant
Trembling with fright
of headaches or stomachaches
Having trouble sleeping
Needing to urinate
Not caring about school or friendship
Worrying about the future
Disappointment with life
Test Your Knowledge
I don't have to worry about my child feeling stress except in extreme situations.
Some stress is normal and
even useful. Stress can help your child if he or she needs to work hard or react quickly. For
example, it can help your child win a race or finish important homework on time.
But if stress happens too often or lasts too long, it can have bad
effects. It can be linked to headaches, an upset stomach, back pain, and
trouble sleeping. It can weaken your child's
immune system, making it harder to fight off disease.
If your child already has a health problem, stress may make it worse. It can make your child moody, tense, or depressed. He or she may not do
well at school.
Learning how to deal with stress is an important part of growing up. You can't keep your children from feeling stressed, but you can teach them what to do when stressful situations occur.
Adults can help children and teens with stress in many ways. Three
important things you can do are to:
Try to reduce the amount of stress in your lives.
Help them build
positive coping skills.
Teach them to let stress out.
Reduce the amount of stress in your lives
Acknowledge your child's
feelings. When children seem sad or scared, for example, tell them you notice they are sad or scared.
Develop trust, and let your child know that mistakes are
Be supportive, and praise your
Show love, warmth, and care. Hug your child
Have clear expectations without being too strict. Let your child know that cooperation is more important than competition.
Don't over-schedule your child into
too many activities.
aware of what your child wants (not just what you want).
Build positive coping skills
It is important to help children learn positive coping skills. These skills are often carried into adult life.
Provide a good example. Keep calm, and control
your anger. Think through plans to decrease stress, and share them with the
Teach them about consequences. Children need to learn about the consequences—good and bad—of their actions. For example, if they do all of their chores on time, they will get their allowance. If they break another child's toy, they must find a way to replace it.
Encourage rational thinking. Help your children understand what is fantasy and
what is reality. For example, help them see that their behavior did not cause a divorce, or
that they are not failures because they were not picked first for
Provide them with some control. Allow your children to
make choices within your family framework. For example, allow them to arrange
their rooms, choose family activities, and help make family
Encourage them to eat healthy
foods, and emphasize the importance of a healthy
Get the stress out
Finding ways to get stress out of their systems will help children feel better. The best ways to relieve
stress are different for each person. Try some of these ideas to see which ones
work for your child:
Exercise. Regular exercise is one of the best
ways to manage stress. For children, this means activities like walking, bike-riding, outdoor play, and individual and group sports.
Write or draw. Older children often find it helpful to write about the things that are bothering them. Younger children may be helped by drawing about those things.
Let feelings out. Invite your child to talk, laugh, cry, and express anger when
he or she needs to.
Do something fun. A
hobby can help your child relax. Volunteer work or work that helps others can be a
great stress reliever for older children.
Learn ways to relax. This can
include breathing exercises, muscle relaxation exercises, massage,
aromatherapy, yoga, or relaxing exercises like tai chi and qi gong.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.