Online Resource for Parents





 Is Your Child Stressed Out?

Before September 11 we all knew children got stressed out. Now it seems like everyone is on edge about any number of things -- from anthrax and the stock market to getting good grades and peer pressure. We all get stressed, but how are our children coping? How can we help them?

Why Stress?
Stress occurs for any number of reasons. "In and of itself, stress isn't bad. When it becomes overwhelming, it leads to distress, " says Ann-Michelle Lykins, M.S., licensed psychological associate at Ephraim McDowell Hospital in Danville, KY. Adults and children alike can suffer from too much stress. Don't minimize children's worries and stress just because they are younger. Their problems and concerns are equally as important.


Warning Signs
1. Any changes in normal patterns of behavior
2. Change in sleep patterns (too much or too little sleep)
3. Change in eating habits (too much or not enough food)
4. Falling grades (will be gradual)
5. Easily annoyed by others; "touchy"
6. Social withdrawal
7. Acting out behavior

Younger children (preschool age) may suffer from separation anxiety or may want to start sleeping in your bed with you. Also keep in mind that just one of these symptoms doesn't necessarily mean your child is stressed. You know your child better than anyone.

What Can You Do?  
"Talk to your kids. That's the most important thing you can do," says Lykins. "Talk to your child's teachers. There should be ongoing communication with child, parent, and teacher." Acting out behavior can occur at home or at school. It is crucial that you maintain an open line of communication. Find out what's going on. Ms. Lykins says that in her experience, often times children are doing too much. Too many activities for kids can be very stressful for kids. Just cutting back one or two things can make all the difference in the world. If your child is doing too much, sit down together and work something out. Prioritize all the activities and decide which ones have to go.

They're Watching You
"Parents are models for their children, " says Ms. Lykins. If they see you dealing with stress in a healthy way, then chances are they will too. Also be sure to keep your child's self-esteem in check. Make sure they understand they are not a failure if they cut down on the number of activities they are participating in. Let them know that you once had to cut back on what you were doing and that it's okay when you need to do that.

Praise Your Child
Recognize your child's accomplishments. Show them you are proud of them. Remember to praise them when they've done something well. You don't have to buy them something, do something special just for the two of you. The best kind of praise is the always popular, "I like how you stood up for your friend. I am really proud of you."


If Your Child Is Still in Distress
If the problem is an internal problem that is causing your child stress, try talking with the school's guidance specialist. Also try family resource centers. Once you have tried all other avenues unsuccessfully, you may need to seek professional help.










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