Kids can be affected by stress, or have sad moods. They can also suffer from depression.
- Stressed out!
- What might stress your child
- Help your teen manage stress
- Tips to cut down stress
Some estimates say that up to ten per cent of children in middle childhood may suffer from depression.
What might stress your child
Common causes of stress include:
arguments between parents or parents splitting up
falling out with friends
being teased too much
being overwhelmed with work or homework
The last item in this list – holidays – may be unexpected. It’s not only unpleasant events, but also some happy ones, that can be stressful to a vulnerable child. Even with celebrations, such as holidays and birthdays, some children and teenagers may react by becoming so overexcited that they end up stressed.
Some teens just seem to have a more happy-go-lucky temperament, and deal with most situations appropriately. They can get over disappointments and setbacks readily, and happily go back to dealing with life’s challenges. Others find this more difficult – they may become withdrawn emotionally, or completely overreact to events.
Causes of teenage stress and how to help your teen manage stress.Help your teen manage stress
Build self-esteem and confidence – show lots of love and affection.
Keep your children up-to-date – it’s vital for you to keep children informed about what’s happening in the family and what’s likely to be coming up. Children can become anxious and bewildered at what’s happening around them.
Look ahead – anticipate incidents that might be stressful for your child and help them as much as possible to prepare for these, such as returning to school after the holidays, exams, or even a holiday. Talk well in advance about the event and any worries your child might have. This can really help to cut down anxiety.
Keep an eye on your child for signs that he’s finding things too stressful – be alert to any sudden changes in behavior, becoming more aggressive, not sleeping, or changes in diet such as overeating, or appearing to eat nothing. Do all you can to help at an early stage so that matters don’t get worse.
Talk and listen – encouraging your child to describe how he feels. Use reflective listening to check out what you’re hearing, for example: “So you’re saying you feel upset when you have too much homework.” It’s not necessary to solve every problem, but just talking things out can really help.
Be realistic – don’t have such high expectations for your child that he’s completely stressed trying to live up to them.
Involve your child – get him to help think up solutions to problems. This gives him a sense that he can make a difference and that things aren’t hopeless.
Use distraction tactics – a day out having fun somewhere can make a child forget he’s upset over a falling out with a friend, or joining a new drama group can soften the blow of not making it onto the swimming team.
Encourage independence – achieving things on your own always gives a boost, so you should try not to over-protect your school age child.
Just letting your child play more with other children can often help him to get things in perspective.
Tips to cut down stress
Don’t put too much pressure on your child to achieve – giving the message that he must do well in tests, or must get into a particular school can create too much stress for some children.
Make your own behavior an example of how to handle stressful situations – if you can show that you don’t fall apart when things go wrong, this teaches a useful lesson. If you freak out when the car won’t start, or when the toast burns, this gives a message that it’s all too much.
Make sure your child has enough time to chill out – allow time to play, read or watch some TV. Rushing from school to music lessons or a tutor leaves no time to unwind and relax.
Slow the pace of life down – you may have become used to rushing around, but your child needs more time to adjust to changes and to take things at his own pace.
Don’t forget or ignore your child in times of crisis or family change – it’s hard for children to imagine what will happen next, and they need you to explain situations patiently to them.
It can really help to lower the emotional temperature at home – if everybody is constantly yelling, rushing around and generally creating a stressful atmosphere, this is almost bound to rub off on children.
Simple relaxation exercises can help some children – breathing deeply, and going floppy. You could even give your child a relaxing massage.
Make sure your child gets enough exercise – set aside enough chances for your child to run around in the fresh air and balance this with making sure he also gets enough relaxing, regular sleep.
Of course, sometimes children have to deal with far more serious problems, such as serious illness, parents divorcing, or even the death of a parent. They will always need help and support from the important adults in their lives at times of major change.
Children often blame themselves for events over which they have no possible control. Just stressing that there’s no way they could have influenced things can be a great relief.
If your teenager seems very depressed, or anxiety symptoms carry on for more than a month, it may be best to consider seeking professional help – contact your family doctor or get a referral from your county psychological association.