Children and teens notice and react to
stress in their family and also experience their own
stress. It is important to recognize stress in children and teens and help them
with healthy coping strategies. The strategies they learn often stay with them
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
Regressing 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
Helping with stress
Adults can help children and teens with stress in many ways. Two
important ways are creating a low-stress environment and helping them develop
positive coping skills.
The following can help develop a low-stress environment:
Acknowledge your child's
feelings. If appropriate, reassure them that you can understand why they would feel sad or scared.
Develop trust and let your child know that mistakes are
Be supportive, and listen to your child's concerns. Allow your child to try to solve his or her own problems, if appropriate. But offer to help and be available to your child when he or she needs you.
Show care, warmth, and love. Hug your child
Have clear expectations without being overly rigid;
emphasize cooperation over competition. Do not over-schedule your child with
too many activities.
Find ways to have your children contribute to
Build on the strengths of the family.
aware of what your child wants (not just what you want).
It is important to help children develop positive coping skills, as
these skills are often carried into adult life. You can help by:
Providing a good example. Keep calm and express
your anger in appropriate ways. Think through plans to reduce stress, and share them with your
Encouraging rational thinking. Be sure your children think
about consequences of their actions. Help them understand what is fantasy and
what is reality. For example, a child's behavior did not cause a divorce, or
they are not failures because they were not picked first for
Providing them with some control. Allow your children to
make choices within your family framework. For example, allow them to arrange
their room, choose family activities, and help make family
Talking openly. When appropriate, talk about your
stressful day. Encourage them to talk about what is bothering
Finding a physical activity and/or hobby that they enjoy and
encouraging them to participate.
Encouraging them to eat healthy
foods and emphasizing the importance of a healthy
Learning and teaching your children relaxation
skills such as breathing exercises, muscle relaxation exercises, meditating, praying, yoga, drawing, or writing.
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