STRESS. The word alone conjures up thoughts of worries, fears, and anxieties. As defined by the American Psychological Association, stress is a normal reaction to everyday pressures, but can become unhealthy when it upsets your day-to-day functioning. Unfortunately, without the right coping mechanisms, it can become debilitating to some.
According to the American Psychological Association, “prolonged stress can cause high blood pressure, weaken the immune system and contribute to diseases such as obesity and heart disease. It can also lead to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.” There are a myriad of sources of stress, but for children, some can include: undesirable situations at home, substantial life changes, school, bullies, making friends, tests/grades, illness, too high expectations, and social issues.
Stress can become evident in a number of ways. The American Psychological Association states that the commonly recognized symptoms are: irritability and anger, changes in behavior, trouble sleeping, neglecting responsibilities, eating changes, and getting sick more often.
To help negate the impact of stress, we must help our children find strategies that will provide them a positive way to cope with stressful situations. Some ideas would include physical activities, take a break and allow them to talk about the situation and their feelings, learn relaxation techniques, build a network of friends who will help you cope, and establish a good routine and get enough rest.
Mental health discussions should also be a normalcy in households. This should not be something that a child should be ashamed of. You should set aside time at least once a week to talk with your child about their feelings and download with them. If there are problems they are facing, help them to work out a plan to address the issue. While keeping it age appropriate, you can share with them some things you may be struggling with and the solutions you have come up with to manage the situation. This will model healthy coping mechanisms to your children.
Some of the problems that your child may encounter will not seem that big of a deal to you, but as my dad always said, “in your big world, their problem may just be a little thing, but in their little world, their problem is a big thing.” That always gave me perspective to not brush off their worries and to help them find a meaningful solution.