1. Yes, Kids Experience Stress Too

Adults sometimes have the misconception (or the not-altogether-accurate memory) of childhood as one long parade of cotton candy and carousel rides. Perhaps it is the comparison with our adult lives that makes childhood seem so carefree. Yet, children today are falling victim to the negative effects of stress in greater numbers than ever before.

“Kids today need stress management just as much as their parents.”

2. What Causes Stress in Kids?

The causes of stress in children tend to be primarily environmental (family, friends, school) until puberty sets in and adds those troublesome hormones into the mix.

Stress in children has been recognized and diagnosed only recently. Many children report having to deal with violence, peer pressure, underage drinking, drug use, and pressure to have sex, not to mention pressure to get good grades, be involved in back-to-back extracurricular activities, have a social life, and keep all the adults in their lives pacified. Kids today need stress management just as much as their parents.

3. Don’t Forget about Young Kids

Even young kids can experience stress. They, too, are sometimes faced with difficult family situations and peer interactions, some of which may not seem difficult to adults but which can cause profound stress reactions in children.

Childhood experiences can impact the individual long after childhood. The key to giving young children the future tools for handling stress is to provide a supportive, loving, nurturing environment. If you do so, you may be helping your child form the neural pathways necessary for healthy stress management.

4. Teach Kids Stress Management Skills

Kids who understand stress management will be empowered to manage their own stress throughout their lives. The first step to teaching kids about stress management is to be tuned in to the stress your kids are feeling. You may not always know all the details of the causes of stress for your kids, but if you live with your children and pay attention, you can probably tell when your child’s equilibrium is disturbed.

5. Look Out for the Signs

Signs of stress in children are similar to signs of stress in adults. Suspect your child is suffering from stress if you notice any of the following:

• Sudden change in appetite that seems unrelated to growth

• Sudden weight loss or gain

• Development of an eating disorder

• Sudden change in sleep habits

• Chronic fatigue

• Insomnia

• Sudden drop in grades

• Sudden change in exercise habits (much more or stopping completely)

• Withdrawal, sudden refusal to communicate

• Signs of anxiety, panic

• Frequent headaches and/or stomach aches

• Frequent frustration

• Depression

• Loss of interest in activities

• Compulsion to overschedule

• Suddenly quitting many activities

6. Soothe Infant Stress

Make a commitment to set aside several fifteen-minute sessions each day during which you devote your full and total attention to your infant. Make eye contact, talk to her, play with her, and don’t do anything else; turn off the television, the radio, put away the newspaper, and stop cleaning. Make it all about baby. He’ll soon learn he is important and worth your attention. Try a daily infant massage.

Gently and softly stroke your baby’s legs, arms, and body to improve circulation and relax muscles. Talk softly and sweetly to your baby as you massage her, sing to her, and make eye contact.

7. Pay Attention to Your Toddler

For toddlers, life is a big exciting adventure. Pay attention to your toddler’s reaction to the world. Instead of forcing him to do something that makes him nervous, notice that he is nervous and take it slow or put off the activity until later. Some toddlers are always ready to jump into new activities. Others require more time to consider new activities before trying them. Respect your child’s individual style. He’ll learn that it’s okay to be the way he is. He’ll be less likely, later in life, to blame himself for his stress, and he’ll be more likely to understand how to approach new things successfully.

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