Stress Management for Children

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Did you know that at some point in a child and adolescent’s life, 30% will experience some form of anxiety but 80% of them never get any help? Children, like many adults, encounter many different stresses in their childhood but parents can often be unaware of their child’s distress due to a misinterpretation of the child’s emotional cues. Therefore, an effective means of stress management for children can be achieved through first teaching them how to express themselves.

In this post, we will talk a look at some of the common causes, signs, and tips to help you learn how to reduce stress in children.

Stress in Children

Stress from what we understand, is simply how we react to a situation or the factor that affects an individual’s physical presence. In small quantities, stress can be good for us because it is often a motivating force and it can help make us more productive.

Nevertheless, too much stress (chronic stress) can be detrimental to any individual and children are not immune to its effects.

Many people assume children are not affected by stress because, “they do not have any responsibilities”, however, statistics show that 72 percent of children have negative behaviors linked to stress. Plus, more than 50 percent of children have had physical symptoms related to stress, such as tummy aches and headaches.

According to the American Psychological Association, about 20 percent of children have reported worrying a great deal and unfortunately, parents can often underestimate their child’s emotions.

Common Causes of Stress in Kids

Children may experience different kinds of stress from their parents but how they react emotionally may still be the same. Kids can experience stress from external factors such as problems in school, their relationships with their peers, or their family’s financial situations.

However, sometimes a child’s stress can arise from the anxiety caused by internal factors such as wanting to fit in with others in school or worrying about grades. Some common causes of stress in kids include;

Financial Instability

Although our children are not responsible for things in the home like money, job concerns, family turmoil, and relationships, these things can still cause a sense of powerlessness and anxiety for our children.

They will compare themselves to children with families in better financial situations which will add to their anxiety. They may also feel helpless but still feel the need to want to help.

Overly-Packed Schedules

A busy schedule can cause stress on anyone. When children have to continuously run to and from one activity to another, this can cause a lot of stress on them.

So just like us parents, children need some time to wind down every now and then.

If your children have a busy schedule you may want to ask them how they feel about it. If it is too much on them, think about readjusting their schedules.

Academic Pressure

Believe it or not, a lot of children feel anxious about doing well in school. Children can express anxiety about their grades and not because of the pressure parents have put on them.

My daughter was actually afraid of making mistakes on her work and disappointing her teachers and my sons have shown stress about not doing well in their performances, imagine the anxiety this has to bring upon them.

We as parents often feel pressure and anxiety when we have to meet deadlines. Academic pressure is very common in children and something we as parents must be able to help our children through.

Popularity

Schools have a lot of different social groups and cliques and the need to fit into one of these groups can be very stressful for children. I remember the agony of being excluded or left out and this can be an issue, especially for younger children.

Encourage your child to feel good about themselves and celebrate their achievements. It is said that children who feel good about themselves are less likely to stress about peer pressures.

Bullying

Bullying is a very serious problem for many children. Statistics show that 17 percent of children and teens are bullied every day.

Whether it is in school, online, or even in their homes, bullying has become a serious issue and is one that parents are often unaware of. Children may be too embarrassed or frightened to tell their parents or teachers and may not want to draw attention to themselves.

So it is important for parents to look for some of the signs of bullying to better help their children.

Signs of bullying may include:

  • Fear of going to school, walking to the bus, or loss of interest in schoolwork
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Torn, damaged, missing, clothes, or books
  • Emotional changes, physical symptoms such as tummy aches, poor appetite, headaches

When my daughter was being bullied in school, the first thing I noticed was the change in her mood. She no longer became interested in going to school.

Bullying can destroy your child’s self-esteem and is something to take very seriously.

Abuse

Children living in violent surroundings, both mentally and physically, experience stress. Parents who continuously beat their kids are also causes of this stress.

The fear that is manifested in kids may disorient them. They will not be able to talk about how they feel to anyone and will instead keep these feelings bottled up inside.

What are the signs of stress?

Children of all ages but especially smaller children may find it harder to express or recognize when they are stressed because of their maturity level. Their stress can express itself through changes in behavior.

Common changes may include:

  • mood swings
  • irritability
  • decreased interest in activities that gave them pleasure
  • complaining about school
  • crying
  • surprising fearful reactions
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • overeating
  • eating too little

Teens will express signs of stress through things like abandoning long-time friendships for new friends, avoiding their parents, or becoming more hostile toward family members.

Although we may understand that stress itself is not negative, how we react to stress can have a negative impact on our systems and too much stress can affect your child’s nervous and immune system.

This will make your children more susceptible to diseases and infections. Other issues have been linked to childhood stress such as depression, alcoholism, eating disorders, and chronic diseases.

Preschool and toddlersElementary-age childrenPreteens and teenagers

Anger
Anxiety
Eating and sleeping problems, including nightmares
Fear of being alone
Irritability
Regressing to infant behaviors
Trembling with fright
Uncontrollable crying
Withdrawal

Being distrustful
Complaining of headaches or stomach aches
Feeling unloved
Having no appetite
Having trouble sleeping
Needing to urinate frequently
Bed-wetting
Not caring about school or friendship
Acting withdrawn
Worrying about the future

Anger
Disillusionment
Distrust of the world
Low self-esteem
Stomach aches and headaches
Panic attacks
Rebellion
List of stress symptoms according to stages of childhood

Continuous stress in a child can not only cause physical symptoms but it is also bad for growth, health, and their activities. There are a variety of causes for stress in children and just like with adults stress can be caused by both negative and positive situations.

Stress Management for Children

stress management for children

There are many different ways to help reduce stress in children. Many of the ways to get stress relief are similar to coping methods used by adults. We will talk about some ways that have been effective for me and most parents.

Model healthy coping methods

Since your children’s negative and positive behaviors are mainly taught by you, their first teacher, it is important for you to set a good example of healthy coping methods.

When you are stressed, your child watches and learns how you react to stress, therefore, take the time to first learn how to properly deal with stress. Then you will be able to help your child better deal with their own stress more effectively.

Provide a good example by showing your children you can keep calm under stressful situations and express your anger appropriately.

Encourage good sleep habits

A good night’s sleep is more important to your ability to deal with stress than most of us are aware and children need their sleep. When adults are tired, we can be more agitated, less patient, and have less strength to tackle our tasks.

Being tired can make it harder to function which in turn makes you more stressed and this is no different for our children.

Therefore, it is important to make sure your children get enough sleep at night as well as stick to a daily sleep schedule.

Schedule stress-relieving activities

Since in theory, when your body feels good so does your mind, it is important to allow your children to spend time participating in stress-relieving activities.

Any physical activity such as exercise or any activity that is fun and stimulates creativity would be a great way for your child to get their mind off of what may be stressing them. Here are a few of my favorite:

  • Painting
  • Singing
  • Jump rope
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Flying a kite
  • Walking
  • Hula hooping

Find a few different activities that your child enjoys and then encourage them to regularly participate.

Teach mindfulness

Mindfulness is a great way to help kids of any age relieve stress by incorporating meditation, breathing exercises, and more to promote happiness.

There are many benefits to teaching your child mindfulness from improved focus to improved academic performance. So not only will you be helping your child improve their stress but you will be giving them useful skills to use in life.

Don’t over-schedule

Overbusy schedules can be a cause for many problems including stress. However, did you know that your busy schedule can also lead to health problems?

Overbusy schedules can prevent you from getting the necessary amount of sleep needed which will add to the stress. Constant exposure to stress means the consistent rise in the stress hormones – cortisol and adrenaline.

High amounts of these hormones are said to age your body, shrink your brain, and compromise your immune system.

So it is important to choose your children’s schedules wisely to lessen their stress, the chances of them getting bored with the same activities, and to prevent them from suffering from stress-related health issues.

Talk it out

Children have a harder time expressing their stress to their parents. This is due to the fact that emotions like “happy”, “worried”, “sad”, or “scared”, we teach to our children but we often don’t teach them what it means to be stressed.

My daughter, for instance, explained to me that, “stress is when you feel frustrated”. She was able to explain that a person may be stressed about money but she couldn’t find the right words to express her own stress.

It made me realize that it was my responsibility as a parent to not only make sure my daughter understood what stress meant but I also am responsible for talking to my children to make sure I know when she is stressed.

Talk with your children, teach them what it means to be “stressed out” so they can properly express this to you and you can take the steps to help them manage it.

Help your child with expressing themselves by acknowledging their feelings. Then reassure them and let them know you understand why they feel the way they do.

Since some children’s stress comes from the fear of messing up or making mistakes, it is important to teach your children that mistakes can be used as a learning experience.

Show them how much you care for them with a hug and do this often. Hugs are a great stress-reliever.

Encourage healthy eating habits

It is said that eating healthy can reduce the negative effects of stress on your body. Find creative ways to encourage your children to eat their fruits and veggies.

You and your children can better handle stress when your body is healthy.

Last Things to Know About Stress Management for Children

Children face stress more often then some of us realize. That is due to our children’s inability to properly express their stress.

So as parents and our children’s teachers, it is very important to set an example of how to not only express stress but to properly cope with it.

That way our children can get the help they so importantly deserve.

But, how can we teach our children to deal with stress if we ourselves can’t handle it properly?

So be sure you are taking the steps to properly manage your own stress and set an example of positive coping methods for your children.

Once you have given your child the tools to communicate their stress and you’ve laid down the foundation to help them manage stress you can help them pick a healthy schedule full of fun activities and help them enjoy a diet full of nutritious foods and a stress-free childhood.

What tools do you use to help your children with stress management? Why do you think we forget to teach our children how to properly express “stress”?

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8 thoughts on “Stress Management for Children”

  1. This is such a great resource for new parents and experienced parents looking to help their children. If we are going to be going through some big life changes, how would you suggest we prepare our children?

    1. That is a great question, Catherine! New changes can be scary for any of us, especially children. Changes such as divorce, remarriage, a new baby, or moving can be especially difficult for children, especially because as I mentioned children have a harder time expressing their feelings. I think the best way to help children cope with these changes is through expression. Talk with your children, make sure you help them understand that you acknowledge their feelings and that you are able to give them the extra support and guidance they need. Then you can help teach them the skills to be more resilient in these situations so they can bounce back more quickly.

      However, also as I mentioned, I think setting the best example is always important. How we react to change is important for our children, because if we aren’t very good at coping with these same situations we will not be able to equip our children with the proper tools and skills to manage their own stresses.

      Thanks for the comment and question!

  2. Wow, this is such a comprehensive article that deals with stress in children. I have four kids myself, and I’m always on the look out for their stress level, especially as two of them have chronic health issues to deal with. Teaching mindfulness is a great one, and we do that through art, a Japanese art form called Nagomi art, where we grind soft pastel into powder form, and use fingers to apply it onto drawing paper. I also try to expose them to some meditation, and they appreciate the calm that comes with it.

    Thank you for all the great reminders and suggestions here. The list of stress symptoms have helped me too. I recognize some of the behavior in my kids, but never realized they are signs of stress.

    1. Wow Joo, that is a great activity! I too have been working with my daughter and doing art activities to help her. This quarantine has been really stressful for the kids as well as the parents. I bought some more crafts from Amazon to do with my children, so I will look into pastels, my daughter may enjoy that.

      Yes, the list of symptoms is a tricky one. My kids often complained of tummy aches when they were experiencing stress in school and some of those symptoms we would attribute to normal childhood issues or even puberty but yes it could actually be stress so we do have to look out for it and talk to our children. Thanks for the activity and the comment.

  3. Stress management for children is full of information for parents, you know children with stress is not talked about nearly enough or brought out in the open so parents know the signs and how to help their children. You have provided a great guide for parents to know what the signs of stress are for their children, and I am happy to share this article with my friends and family

    Jeff

    1. Yes, I agree, it isn’t something some of s talk about with our children enough and I think it is something we need to make sure our children are getting help with especially now. Thanks for the comment and for sharing!

  4. I don’t have children nor plan on having any children, but I wish I had found this sooner so that I could have shown it to my parent. Looking through all these indicators, I believe that I had a stressful childhood. My parent would always tell me to let them know if I was being bullied at school and the one time I told them I wasn’t being bullied, they told me to suck it up.

    That may not be what my parent actually said, but that was the message I was receiving, so from then on, I didn’t tell my parent anything. I had to seek outside help. Then again, if I had shown my parent this post back then, nothing would have changed anyway, probably.

    I think this advice works for all kinds of people whether they’re adults, young adults, teens, or children. Also, I think parents forget to teach their children properly about stress because they themselves don’t know how to deal with it properly. Thanks for this post, I can be more conscious about stress in myself and others with this.

    1. Hi Ryzehn,
      I am sorry to hear about your experiences as a child. I agree with you that parents probably don’t often know how to teach their children about stress because they themselves don’t have the proper coping methods. I appreciate you sharing your experience and a positive note is I believe what you went through has made you more aware of stress and how to cope with stress as you mentioned and you can continue to at least share that with others. Thanks for the comment!

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