Too many commitments, problems with friends and pressures to perform at school—like adults, kids today have a lot of stressors in their lives. While a certain amount of stress is normal, such as starting a new school or taking a big test, your child may not be equipped to manage stress as appropriately as you can.
“If your child starts complaining of physical symptoms like headache, stomach ache, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath and/or showing changes in sleep and/or appetite, mood swings or acting out, they may be exhibiting signs of stress” Bahar Altaha, MD, child and adolescent psychiatrist with Banner Behavioral Health Hospital, said.
Schedule Down Time
When does a play date start to frustrate? One of the biggest stressors for kids is being overscheduled. Unfortunately, sometimes even fun after-school activities can become overwhelming if it is on a daily basis and your child has no down time. Over time it becomes more about success and competitiveness than being fun. Dr. Altaha says to give your child time on a daily basis to relax.
“Find time at least a few nights a week for your child to simply relax and not think about schedules or commitments,” she said.
Have One-on-One Time
“Although they may not exhibit it, children crave attention from mom and pop,” Dr. Altaha said.
Spending just 30 minutes with your child each day to walk through their day can ease worries. Carve out a time that works for you both—it can be at bedtime, at the dinner table, while taking your child to school or any other opportunity that you can work out with your child—and keep with the routine.
Create a Bedtime Routine
Your carefree kiddos may find themselves stressed out at bedtime. Make sure your child is getting 10-11 hours if they are 6-12 years old and 8-9 hours if they are 13-18 years old. To ensure this, create a 30 to 45-minute bedtime routine to help your child transition from the activities of the day to the relaxed state necessary to fall asleep.
If they have lots of worries, Dr. Altaha suggests keeping a worry journal by their bed, where they can write down the worries they are feeling that day. Dr. Altaha also suggests using meditation/relaxation apps for kids like sleep meditation, breathing exercises or progressive relaxation techniques, to help them calm their mind and body.
Limit Social Media Use
Many schools are starting to fight social media stressors by creating educational programs and curriculum for children about proper technology etiquette and usage, but what can you do as a parent?
Dr. Altaha suggests overseeing their technology use, setting limits and continually talking with your child about what apps or platforms they are using.
Model Good Behavior
Stress is contagious. When you are stressed out, most likely that stress will carry over to the rest of the family. Be honest with your child that you too can suffer from stress and anxiety and show them how to relieve stress in a healthy way—such as running, coloring or listening to music.
For kids, a lot of stress can also come from the fear of making mistakes. Remind them that they’re not supposed to know everything. Dr. Altaha suggests, when you make a mistake, take responsibility for it.
“We as parents have to be role models. If we want our children to reduce stress, we should reduce stress too,” she said.
If your child is still showing signs of severe stress and anxiety, schedule time to speak with a Banner Behavioral Health expert near you.