How to Help Your Children / Adolescents Manage Stress

You don't have to be a grown-up to feel stress.  Many children/adolescents today have to cope with family conflict, divorce, changes in school, peer pressure, and sometimes violence in their homes and communities. 

The impact of a stressor depends on a child's/adolescent's personality, maturity, and style of coping. Yet, it's not always obvious when they are feeling overtaxed. Children often have a hard time describing how they feel.  When some children are stressed, they may cry or become aggressive.  Adolescents often "act out" their feelings instead of talking about them.  

Stress can affect your daughter's/son's physical health as well. Asthma, hay fever, and migraine headaches can be exacerbated by stressful situations.

As a parent it is your job to monitor when additional stressors may enter your daughter's/son's lives and model appropriate ways of handling stressful situations.

Here's what you can do:

  1. Monitor your own stress level. Studies show that the best predictor of how children cope is how well their parents cope in situations. Be aware of when your own stress level contributes to conflicts in the home.

  2. Keep communication lines open. Sometimes children/adolescents need to be able to "vent" their frustrations without parents giving advice or a lecture.

  3. Children and adolescents who do not have close friendships are at risk for developing stress related difficulties. Encourage friendships by scheduling play dates and activities for children and encourage extra curricular activities such as clubs, sports, etc. for adolescents.

  4. Make sure your daughter/son is not over scheduled with activities and obligations. Everyone has a different threshold for how much they can handle.

  5. No matter how busy their schedule, all children and adolescents need time to play and relax.

  6. Teach your daughter/son ways to relax and healthy outlets for stress, such as exercise, listening to music, talking to a friend or counselor, etc.

  7. Make your home a relaxing, safe, non-chaotic place to be.

  8. Make time for fun, relaxing family oriented activities. (A bike ride together or even a game of monopoly can help everyone relax and enjoy spending time together.)

  9. Acknowledge that your child's/adolescent's life is made of experiences that are stress provoking and make a point of supporting open communication that will lead to mutual problem solving.

Information has been compiled from various educational
and counseling resources