Are you feeling the effects of stress? How about your children?
Kids are like sponges for the emotions around them. So when parents are stressed out, kids will sense the stress, too. In addition to stress at home, kids have increasingly more stress in their lives with homework, school, sports, social media and peer groups.
The warning signs can be easy to miss because parents don’t equate them with stress. For example, children often have physical symptoms of stress…like lots of stomachaches or headaches.
Warning Signs of Childhood Stress
- Physical symptoms (stomachaches/headaches)
- Shutting down/acting like they don’t care
- Negative changes in behavior
- More arguments than normal
How Can Parents Help?
Parents don’t always have the answers, and that’s okay. Even as adults we still struggle sometimes with figuring out what to do, especially when it comes to kids. Here are simple steps parents can take to try and ease a child’s stress:
1. Schedule time together.
2. Model appropriate behavior.
When you are feeling stressed, talk about these feelings and the stress management skill(s) you are using to deal with them. Help your child identify these feeling within themselves and appropriate ways they can respond to feeling stressed.
3. Give them some space.
If your child is over stressed, give them some space to cool off and figure things out for themselves. Later, go back and check in on them to make sure they are alright. The same can be applied to parents. A walk, for example, is a great way to take your mind off a problem.
4. Seek the support of a professional.
If you are concerned that your child or teen is experiencing too much stress on a regular basis and having symptoms described above, get help for a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist. They have special training to help people identify problems and develop effective strategies to resolve overwhelming feelings of stress.
Stress is an unavoidable part of life. Learning to recognize stress in your children and helping them practice healthy stress management behaviors will help them be happier and more resilient now and when they are adults.
Gregory V. Mallis, PsyD, practices at Pine Rest’s Christian Counseling Center. He attended the University of Indianapolis, where he received his Masters and Doctorate degrees in Clinical Psychology. Gregory enjoys providing therapy for young adults, adults, and couples. His clinical interests include relational issues, couples and marital therapy, depression/anxiety concerns, men’s issues, identity issues, stress management, and the integration of mindfulness practices for anxiety reduction.