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 you 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.
As a parent, you should 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 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—like 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. If your child is 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.
Feeling Freaked Out By Stress?
Almost all teenagers feel stressed out at times. Everyday stress can involve things like worrying about school work or feeling nervous before a big event. In small amounts, stress helps you get better at dealing with the ups and downs of life and helps you stay focused. Sometimes stress becomes overwhelming and can cause problems. The stress that comes with really difficult life situations (moving, parents getting divorced, a breakup) often feels stronger and lasts longer than everyday stress. Experiencing something traumatic (death of a loved one, abuse, bullying, witnessing something really frightening) can cause serious stress reactions. Sometimes if stress just feels too much, we don’t know how to cope. Sometimes people react to stress in ways that cause more stress or self-harm, like cutting, running away or abusing drugs and alcohol. When stress starts to interfere with the ability to enjoy everyday life, it's serious.
With serious types of stress, you’ll probably need some extra help and support. First, don't ignore a big problem, hoping it will go away. Get help figuring out how you'll cope. When stress really builds up, it's not always possible to see a way out or a clear answer about what to do. In these cases, you probably need help dealing with whatever situation is creating serious stress for you. This is when it's time to turn to a parent, counsellor, therapist, religious leader, teacher, coach, or someone else you trust and ask for help. Talking about your feelings with someone else can give you a fresh way of thinking about things. It can also help you feel more understood and remind you that people care about you.
You can also take some control of managing your stress. Having a healthy diet, avoiding alcohol or drugs, and exercising regularly can help manage stress. A good night's sleep helps give you the ability to better deal with stressful situations. Try to figure out ways that help you cope with stress, such as time management, goal setting, and positive thinking. Try taking big goals/problems and breaking them down into smaller, more manageable chunks. Make it a habit to notice and focus on what's good in your life, even the little things. Noticing the good things even when you're feeling bad can help you start feeling more positive. Try to put things in perspective and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Schedule some time to relax and do things you enjoy (even if you don't feel like it at the time).
If the stress still doesn’t get better (or feel more manageable) after trying these things, ask your parents or another adult to arrange an appointment for you to meet with your family doctor and a counsellor to get checked out. A counsellor can help you figure out ways to cope better with stress and boost your mood so you can get back to enjoying life.