How Stress Affects Children & How to Manage It
Science says yes.
According to the American Psychological Association, about 20% of children report worrying a great deal. Unfortunately, parents greatly underestimate their child’s emotions. Only 3% of parents rate their child’s stress as extreme, and while 33% of kids experienced headaches in the month prior to the study, just 13% of parents thought these headaches were stress-related.
Here’s how you can help your kids manage stress.
How Stress Affects Children
Kids may experience different stresses than their parents — such as worrying about doing well in school, relationships with their siblings and peers, and their family’s financial situation — but they still experience the emotions. Mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and stress can have a detrimental impact on your child’s long-term development, especially because their brains are still developing. Stress affects biological processes, taking its toll on the brain and body.
Stress is your body’s natural response to demanding or adverse circumstances. Biologically speaking, it’s meant to help us deal with life-or-death situations. This fight-or-flight response causes a shift in hormones — including the release of cortisol and adrenaline — which elevates blood pressure and heart rate. Stress is beneficial in short-term situations, but when that stress response is always “on,” it can lead to problems. People can start to suffer from heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, not to mention mental issues like depression, fear, neediness, and the inability to learn new behaviors. This prolonged activation of the stress response is called “toxic stress.”
How to Help Your Kids Manage Stress
Adults have their own tricks for managing stress, but your kids have yet to develop the habits and discover the activities that can help reduce their worries. Put their health and development on the right track by giving them a helping hand. These following tips will get you started.
Talk with Your Kids
The first step to helping your kids is to understand what’s bothering them and stressing them out. That way you can combat the stress at the source. For example, while 30% of kids worry about family financial difficulties, only 18% of parents believe it’s a source of their child’s stress. If you discover they’re worried about money, you can talk through your finances with them. You can even help them set up their own bank account and budget so they feel more in control. What’s more, talking to your kids shows them it’s okay to approach you about their worries so they don’t have to face them alone.