Almost everyone has times when they feel stressed out, including children and teens. Stress is a normal reaction to the challenges we face in our everyday lives. A certain amount of stress can even be helpful. For example, a bit of stress can help a young person focus on preparing for an exam or competition.
But too much stress is just that—too much. Children or teens who are feeling really stressed may have headaches, stomach-aches, or trouble sleeping. They might complain or argue more than usual, stop doing the things they enjoy, or spend more time alone than usual. They might have a hard time staying on track with homework, which only increases their stress. If too much stress builds up, young people who don’t know how to cope can react in harmful ways.
Don't Ignore the Problem
If you’re a young person and you notice that a friend or sibling seems stressed, talk to them about it and urge them to talk to an adult they trust.
If you’re a parent and you think your child is stressed out, don’t ignore the problem. Talk to your child about what’s making them feel stressed. It may be a family situation you’re well aware of – such as conflict, divorce, or the death of someone close. Or maybe your child has been bullied or abused, or has witnessed something frightening, that you don’t know about. These kinds of stresses can be overwhelming and make every part of your child’s life feel more difficult and less enjoyable.
As parent, you should also be aware that children and teens are deeply affected by stress in the household. Learn how to manage your own stress—check out online resources and/or community supports. Keep yourself calm and managing stress well so you can be calm and present to help them with theirs. Talk about stress with your kids and model good coping skills. These include focusing on the positive, taking deep breaths, going for walks, and finding the time to relax and share a few laughs. Learning to set realistic goals, manage time wisely, and break big jobs or problems into little ones that can be more easily handled, helps take the pressure off too.
It’s also important to focus on the basics of healthy living. Your child will be better able to cope with stress if they’re eating fresh, nutritious food and staying away from salty, sugary packaged foods. Getting lots of sleep, daily physical activity and time outdoors will also help them keep stressful things in perspective.
If your child is still stressed out, get help. Your family doctor or a mental health clinician can help your child learn to manage stress so they feel better and can get back to enjoying life.