Between homework, high-stakes testing, extracurricular activities, peer pressure and all of the other things that kids have to deal with, it’s little wonder that some kids are stressed out! Some stress is good, of course, as it teaches kids how to deal with responsibility, commitment, hard work and the other rigors of life. Sometimes, though, kids can experience more stress than is healthy. Here are a few signs that your child is stressed out:
- General irritability
- Headaches, neck or back pain
- Stomachaches, nausea, diarrhea
- Tooth-grinding or jaw-clenching
- Frequent crying and whining
- Aggressive behavior
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling nervous or jittery
- Complaints of a fast heartbeat or shakiness
If your child is experiencing some or many of these symptoms, stress might be to blame. (To be sure, take him to the pediatrician to rule out health problems before assuming that it’s stress.) Teaching your child to handle stress well now will serve him throughout his entire life.
Try some of these tips:
– Evaluate whether all of the activities that your child participates in are necessary or beneficial. If your child is exhausted from going from school to various practices and rehearsals every weekday afternoon, consider cutting something out. Also, if your child hates a certain activity, talk to him about dropping it. As adults, we know that at some point, we can’t keep taking on new obligations; this is a valuable lesson to teach your child as well.
– Make sure he has plenty of unstructured time. After a long day at school, give your child a break before he jumps into tackling homework, soccer practice, music lessons and chores. Send him outside to play, or let him watch a silly cartoon. Even better, give him a snack and just spend time sitting together, chatting.
– Help him prioritize and create a routine. I know that I feel less stressed-out when I have a workable routine, and so do my kids! Be flexible, but in general, stick to a plan. It might be school, snack, homework, sports practice, dinner, relaxation time, bath, bed. Or, your afternoons may look like this: school, after school care, dinner, dance class, homework, bed. This gives your child a sense of consistency and can help him remain calm, even when he has a lot to do.
– Encourage your child to find an outlet for stress. Teach him to take a breather when he feels his stress levels rising. He could go for a walk, listen to music, call a friend or simply lay down for a few minutes. Set a good example by doing the same yourself: if your blood pressure is rising and your heart is pumping, take a break!
– Foster a healthy lifestyle. Make sure your child is eating well, sleeping regularly and getting plenty of exercise. This will boost his physical health, as well as his emotional health and the way he is able to deal with stress. Get the whole family involved, as focusing on health is beneficial to everyone!
– Don’t be afraid to seek help. If your child’s symptoms of stress are unmanageable or seem to get worse, talk to his teacher, pediatrician or a counselor for tips and suggestions. This will not only help your child now, but will also allow him to feel good about asking for help as an adult, which is a lesson that many of us, particularly moms, need to work on!
How do you help your child deal with stress?