Managing Stress in Kids — Common Causes and What to Do

Help manage stress in your kids

In today’s world, kids and teens can experience just as much stress as their parents.

Chronic stress doesn’t just affect adults juggling careers, families, and personal responsibilities. Research shows that kids and teens living in today’s modern world experience just as much, and sometimes more, stress than adults.

The Stress in America survey found that the average stress level for teens was 5.8 whereas adults averaged 5.1. Another study discovered that kids and teens are five to eight times more likely to voice their stress, anxiety, and depression now compared to kids living at the height of the Great Depression.

When you delve into the obstacles and challenges adolescents face today, it’s clear that childhood has really changed. Social media has a particularly powerful impact, exacerbating stress in ways many parents didn’t experience during their own childhood. Here are the 5 most common types of stress kids often experience.

  1. School

Compared to decades past, kids today often feel pressure to perform at a higher level overall in order to get into the best schools or pursue future career paths in college. School-related stress triggers include getting good grades, passing an important test or exam, competition with other students, and conflict with teachers or staff.

  1. Social Life

Fitting in and having good friends is crucial for kids and teens. Without a happy social life, it’s easy for kids to feel lonely and even depressed. Social media can help kids feel more connected to friends, but it can also have the opposite effect. Your child may feel rejected or left out when they see their friends going out without them. 

  1. Bullying

Bullying is, unfortunately, still a big issue for kids and teens of all ages. In addition to making your kid feel very stressed and overwhelmed, bullying can easily lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. Social media often also plays a role in this form of stress, with cyberbullying now being the most common form of bullying.

  1. Family Life

Stress from family life can present itself in a few different ways for kids. Moving into a new house, sibling rivalry, divorce or separation, and feeling the effects of a parent’s or sibling’s own stress are all very common triggers.

  1. World Events

In years past, many kids didn’t experience stress from world events. That all changed in 2020 with the pandemic. Many kids experienced completely new forms of stress, from being worried about getting sick, sad because they couldn’t see friends or family, and downright overwhelmed with online schooling.

What to do when your child is feeling stressed and anxious.

Stress isn’t always avoidable, but there’s a lot you can do as a parent to help your child lower their stress levels. You’ll find that as your child grows older, they’ll adopt these stress-fighting habits as their own.

Have an open conversation about stress—and simply listen.

When you see your child showing signs of being stressed, sad, withdrawn, or even angry, try to open up a conversation about it. You might begin the conversation, but allow them to take over while you simply listen. Consider how much it helps you to simply vent to a friend when you have a bad day, and offer this same option to your child, judgement- and lecture-free.

Rearrange your child’s schedule for more self-care.

If your child’s stress stems from having too much on their plate, take a look at their schedule and consider removing less-important responsibilities to make time for self-care or downtime for playing, relaxation, hobbies, or friends. 

Make sure your child is getting plenty of restful sleep.

School-age kids and teens should get about nine to 11 hours of sleep per night, with younger kids requiring more sleep than teens. A lack of sleep quickly worsens stress, anxiety, and general mood so try to maintain regular bedtimes, even for older teens who may normally pick their own bedtime.

Remind your child that stress can sometimes be a friend.

Stress is often viewed negatively, but in reality it can be a benefit. Teaching kids the differences between negative stress and positive stress can help them confront tense situations with more confidence. For example, an important test can cause anxiety and stress, but a healthy amount of stress can prompt motivation to study and succeed. 

Help your child learn calming tactics for anxiety.

When your child feels anxious or emotionally overwhelmed, stress quickly builds unless there is an outlet. Explore different calming tactics to see what your child enjoys. It could be deep-breathing exercises, journaling, stretching or yoga, or simply coloring in a picture.

Consider the help of a counselor or therapist.

Teaching kids to reach out when they need help is perhaps one of the most valuable ideas we can instill from a young age. If you’re helping your child with their stress but discover that perhaps they need professional guidance, talk to them about seeing a counselor or therapist. Sometimes even just a few sessions with a healthcare professional can give kids the tools they need to get through stressful times in life.

Keep up routine healthcare—including dental care appointments.

Did you know that stress can take a toll on your child’s oral health? A common oral symptom of chronic stress is bruxism or teeth grinding. While your child’s doctor may not see the signs of bruxism, a pediatric dentist will notice it right away. Your child’s dentist can then alleviate any damage to your child’s smile by fitting them with a mouthguard.

Don’t forget to take care of your own stress.

While you’re helping your child kick chronic stress, don’t forget to make time to take care of yourself as well. Apply the same tips mentioned above to your own life as much as possible. Set aside time for self-care. Ensure you’re getting at least eight hours of sleep every night. Reach out to a mental health professional if you feel like you’re struggling.You can take the first step towards making time for yourself by booking a relaxing dental appointment and cleaning with Valley Dental Clinic.

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