Kids and Stress
Compared with what adults get stressed about, it might seem like our children don’t have that much to get stressed about. But kids have their own concerns, and often feel stress. That stress can become very overwhelming, particularly if they don’t’ have effective coping strategies.
A KidsHealth® Kids Poll (www.kidshealth.org) explored what kids stress about the most. The poll showed that kids are dealing with stressors in their lives in both healthy and unhealthy ways. While many children may not say as much, they do want their parents to help them cope with their feelings.
Some stressor included: grades, school, homework; family, friends, peers, gossip and teasing. Some of those who answered said that when they were upset, they take it out on themselves, either by physically hurting themselves or others. Some kids seek other unhealthy ways (like alcohol or drugs) to deal with stress.
The poll also revealed important news for parents: Though talking to parents ranked 8th on the list of most popular coping methods, 75% of the youth surveyed said they want and need their parent’s help in times of trouble. When they are stressed they look to their parents to help them solve the problem, try to cheer them up, or just spend time together.
What Can You Do?
- Notice out loud. Casually observe that they might be upset and that you are interesting in hearing about it if they want to talk. Putting feelings into words is a valuable tool no matter what the age.
- Listen to them. Listen attentively and calmly with patience, interest and caring. Avoid the urge to be judgmental or to tell them what they should have done. Encourage them to tell the whole story by asking questions, and let them take time to tell you what is upsetting.
- Help them think of things to do. Suggest activities that your kids can do to feel better now and to solve the problem at hand. Encourage them to think of a couple of ideas–you can get the brainstorm started but let them do the work. Sometimes talking and listening and feeling understood is all that is needed. If they cannot come up with any ideas don’t be afraid to change the subject and move on.
- Just be there. If your child doesn’t seem talkative, suggest doing something together like taking a walk, watch a movie, shoot some hoops, or ask them to help with dinner. Even when kids don’t want to talk, they usually don’t want their parents to just leave them alone.
Focus on helping your children become good problem solvers. Kids who learn how to roll with life’s ups and downs, put feelings into words, calm down when needed, have an easier time of bouncing back earlier. By learning healthy coping strategies, kids can manage stress better in the future!
*The national KidsPoll surveyed 875 9- to 13-year-old boys and girls regarding how they coped with stress. The KidsPoll is a collaboration of the Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth, the Department of Health Education and Recreation at Southern Illinois University — Carbondale, the National Association of Health Education Centers (NAHEC), and participating health education centers throughout the United States.