* Over-Scheduled Children Experience Stress

By Christine Weinzapfel-Hayden, LCSW – February 20, 2018 –

Most families have had these moments… sitting at the dining room table, looking at the calendar and trying to figure out how you’re going to map everyone’s schedule for the week.

Between practices, tutoring, homework and more, it’s tough to figure out when and where we’re going to get our children fed because no one is ever home at the same time.

For parents, the reality of trying to figure out the family’s schedule is daunting and stressful.  If we are harried trying to fit all of these activities into a day, how do our children react?

American children are overextended.  Gone are the days of coming home and playing with friends outside for hours before having dinner with the family, finishing homework and settling into bed.

Today’s children spend 8 hours at school followed by hours of practice or club activities several nights a week.  When they finally get home, they tackle more homework than ever due to higher academic expectations.

All of this stress can be harmful to a brain that has not fully developed.  So what does this mean for our children?

Children, like adults, all handle stress differently.  There is no magic number of extracurricular activities that will provide a child with the most enriched life.

The best thing a parent can do is be observant and empathetic to the child’s emotional needs.  Does your child seem stressed?  Are they asking if they can skip practices?  Do you have to drag them out the door? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, chances are your child is overextended.

So, what can you do to help kids manage their time and feel less overwhelmed?  Allow them to pick the activities that mean the most to them.  As parents, we often feel the need to expose our children to as many opportunities as possible. What is really important, though, is that our children enjoy the things they’re doing.  When a child is playing and having fun they are also learning.

It is also important that your family has time together.  When every family member is involved in different activities it makes it difficult to spend quality time together.  We need to be just as concerned about our children having time at home with their family as we are with the activities they are involved in.

The moral of the story is…You’re not setting your child up for failure if you don’t involve them in an excessive amount of extra-curricular activities.  Allow your child to express what is most important to them to narrow down their involvement.  Having fun and spending time with family is what is most important.

 

* Help for Stressed Out Kids

By Vicki Kirkman, Courier & Press, Sept. 5, 2017 –

Stress is a natural part of life and something that everyone experiences.  It can be positive or negative and affect your daily life greatly if not managed appropriately.

In some situations, stress can motivate us to do better or work toward hard-to-reach goals.   Other circumstances can leave someone feeling overwhelmed, anxious and out of control.

Children and teens are affected by stress in several ways.  Parents need to remember that all children respond to situations and experiences differently.  What causes stress for one child or teen might not affect another one.

However, some stressors are common for children and teens.  These stressors include pressure at school, being involved in too many after school activities or conflict with friends and family.

Other big and complicated issues like divorce, death of a loved one, drug use, and financial problems at home contribute to stress.  Medical illnesses and world events like natural disasters or war can also be sources of stress.

It’s important for parents to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress in their children and help them manage it in a healthy manner.  Young children that are stressed may complain of stomach aches, headaches or say they just don’t feel well.

They may try to avoid attending school or visit the school nurse frequently.  They may also be more tearful than normal, have trouble sleeping, wet the bed or not eat as much at meals.  Some children experience nightmares or have acting-out behavior such as outbursts or tantrums.

Teenagers can experience many physical reactions to stress, including digestive problems, headaches, tense muscles, racing heart, frequent colds and fatigue.  Teens might also feel overly emotional, irritable, depressed and experience mood swings.

Mentally, teens with stress overload may feel forgetful, lack concentration and have a negative attitude.  Both children and teens often withdraw from activities they enjoy and isolate themselves from friends if they experience too much stress.

Parents can play a key role in helping their children and teens manage stress.  Most importantly, parents can model good coping skills and stress management in their own lives.  If children see their parents deal with stress in a healthy and positive manner, they are more likely to apply that to their own life.

Other ways parents can help their children are listed below.

  • Teach your kids how to identify their body’s cues for stress overload.  Pay attention to headaches, upset stomach, tearfulness or tense muscles.
  • Limit extra-curricular activities.  Too many evenings participating in sports, extra lessons or just running errands can cause kids and teens to become tired and pressed for time to do homework or just relax.
  • Prepare ahead of time to avoid extra hassles.  Lay out the next day’s clothes, pack lunches, put homework and bags in an easy place to grab, etc.
  • Monitor and limit exposure to television, social media and cell phone.  Phones should be put away at night so kids can sleep and not be tempted to text friends or surf the internet.
  • Encourage relaxation and leisurely activities with friends and family.
  • Get plenty of rest and eat a healthy diet.
  • Teach communication skills like problem solving, good decision making and sharing feelings and thoughts with others.
  • Recognize when stress is too big to tackle alone.  Don’t hesitate to speak to a Youth First Social Worker in your child’s school, counselor or doctor for extra support and help.

Stress management is crucial in life and best handled with the guidance of parents and supportive adults.  By helping children and teens manage stress, they can be better prepared for life’s challenges.