* 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.

* Striking a Balance – Time Management for a New School Year

By Lisa Cossey, LCSW, Courier & Press, August 29, 2017 –

With most children already back at school for a new year, many families will find themselves in a struggle for the ages: wants versus needs.

Many families have difficulty finding a balance between work and play.  But what if the struggle is between your child’s academics and their extracurricular activities?

It would be hard to find a parent who would say academics aren’t important, but at times it seems academics are in direct competition with having fun.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great for kids to have fun.  They need active and sensory experiences to help them grow and develop.  Extracurricular activities can also be a great way to develop skills.

But if your child’s academics are suffering or your child is upset, tearful, moody or more anxious than normal, it’s time to take a hard look at your family’s schedule.  And if you’re spending more time in the car than you do in your home together as a family, it’s definitely time to step back and reassess your priorities.

 What is your child doing? Do they have one activity, or two, three or four?  How many hours a day are they away from home?  How many nights a week is your family away from home?  Is your child getting enough sleep at night?

A healthy balance is needed between school and extracurricular activities.  At this point in the year, your family will soon have a good idea of how much homework your student is going to receive daily.  Evaluate what your child and family can handle.

For reference, according to Dorothy Sluss, President of the U.S. Chapter of International Play Association, for every week of intensive activity, three weeks of less structured time and activity are needed to maintain a healthy balance for children.

If your child’s grades are not what they used to be, or if they are having more incomplete or missing work, it may be necessary to back off the wants and focus on the needs.  It is OK to drop an activity due to falling grades or place a limit on how many activities your child is able to join to keep a healthy balance.  Putting academics ahead of sports, scouts  and dance is OK too.

We have a culture that encourages and supports many sports and other activities.  Encouragement is great.  The issue is when children feel pressured to commit and join.  It is OK to say no.  It is OK to put your family’s needs first.  It is OK to limit the number of activities your family is involved in.

If you have concerns for your child or need further ideas on how to strike the right balance for your family, please feel free to reach out to your child’s teacher or to the Youth First School Social Worker at their school. We are here to help.