Stress in Children and Adolescents

Stress can be harmful or beneficial. Harmful stress is often referred to as distress or anxiety and beneficial stress can motivate us to solve problems and accomplish goals. Oftentimes, young children cannot express that they are stressed but they do tell adults in unique ways by making statements like, “My stomach hurts,” “my head hurts,” and “I can’t go to school.”

As a parent, how can I protect my child from the harmful effects of stress when stress is inevitable?

  • Let your child know that they can trust you
  • Encourage the expression of feelings
  • Help your child learn how to problem-solve
  • Teach and model emotional regulation
  • Encourage your child to develop healthy relationships by modeling positive interactions with others
  • Encourage physical activity as a means of releasing stress
  • Set realistic behavioral expectations for your child’s developmental level
  • Keep your child informed of necessary and anticipated changes
  • Interpret events positively in order to enhance optimism
  • Express positive emotions
  • Monitor peer relationships in middle and high school
  • Teach your children that self-medicating with alcohol and drugs is a poor coping strategy

As a parent, how can I help my child cope with stress?

  • Encourage your child to maintain a schedule that is manageable (Be careful he/she is not overextended)
  • Encourage your child to talk if there is a problem during the day
  • Be selective in the TV programs that your child watches
  • When your child makes a poor decision, listen without being critical and try to use encouragement and natural consequences instead of punishment
  • Contact your child’s teachers if you believe your child’s stress may affect their school performance
  • Seek professional help at Tashawna K. Duncan, Ph.D., P.A. when the signs of stress do not decrease or disappear

As a child or adolescent, what can I do to alleviate my stress?

  • Talk about your problem
  • Learn strategies to manage your stress
  • Laugh and play a little every day
  • Engage in exercise/sports
  • Pet your dog or cat
  • Set realistic goals
  • Love and respect yourself
  • Respect your parents
  • Accept others and be tolerant of differences
  • Enjoy solving problems
  • Breathe deeply using your diaphragm
  • Know that drugs and alcohol may appear to help you to fit in but they will not solve your problems
Copeland, E. Stress in children and adolescents. National Association of School Psychologists, S5H26.