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?
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.
1. Any changes in normal patterns
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
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
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
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.