Stress levels reached record highs because of the epidemic. These constructive coping strategies are for kids and teenagers.
In the short term, stress might motivate a teen to study when he’d rather be out with friends or urge a kid to practise for her piano concert. Nevertheless, persistent stress is different, such as that brought on by a pandemic, societal instability, or violence. Long-term stress can be a factor in a wide range of physical and mental health issues if it is not managed.Long-term stress can worsen health issues including obesity and heart disease and raise blood pressure and immune system performance. It can also result in mental health issues including sadness and anxiety, which are becoming increasingly prevalent in young people.
Mental illness is at an all-time high more than two full years into the COVID-19 epidemic, particularly among youngsters. In fact, a research published in 2022 in JAMA Pediatrics found that between 2016 and 2020, the proportion of children aged 3 to 17 who were diagnosed with anxiety by 29%, and those who were depressed by 27%. Concerning changes in child and family well-being following the start of the COVID-19 epidemic are also suggested by the data.
Almost 270,000 children tragically lost one or more of their carers to COVID-19 at the high end of the stress range.
Stress in adolescents often manifests differently from stress in adults. But, just like adults, children and teenagers—even those whose lives have been drastically altered by tragedies—can learn effective coping techniques. Young people can learn to identify the signs of excessive stress and, with the right tools and the support of their parents or other carers, manage it.
Stress-causing factors for young children
Conflict in the home frequently causes stress in young children. Children may be distressed by issues such as family conflict, divorce, or loss. Even good transitions, like obtaining a new sibling, moving into a new home, or meeting a beloved new stepparent, can be challenging for a child.
Another typical issue for children is school. Navigating social relationships at school, including making friends, dealing with bullies, and building positive relationships with teachers, can be a significant source of stress for young children. They could also experience stress related to exams and grades.
In this group, there is also an increase in more severe stress. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while paediatric emergency department visits decreased during the pandemic, the number and proportion of mental health-related emergency department visits increased for children aged 0 to 11 compared to 2019.
Stress Factors for Teens and Young Adults
As children age, their stressors multiply. Compared to teenagers, young children are less likely to experience stress as a result of events that happen outside the family.
This age group is also seeing an increase in mental health crises, with children aged 12 to 17 experiencing an increase in mental health-related emergency department visits compared to 2019. Since the start of the pandemic, emergency rooms have seen an upsurge in visits from people of this age with eating disorders, drug overdoses, and self-harm.
According to the Healthy Minds Survey, which gathers information from 373 campuses around the country, more than 60% of college students during the 2020–2021 academic year satisfied the criteria for at least one mental health concern.
Peers have the power to both lessen and make stress worse. Social ties are especially important during adolescence. Teenagers frequently fret about dating their first significant other, fitting in, and the peer pressure to use drugs and engage in sex.
Determine the Symptoms of Stress
Symptoms of youth stress can manifest in a number of ways, including:
- Youngsters frequently struggle to express their emotions in words, and stress can occasionally boil over into irritability and rage. Stressed-out kids and teenagers could act angrier or more combative than normal.
- Changes in behaviour: A young child who was once an excellent listener is now acting out. Today, a once-active teen is reluctant to leave the house. Sudden changes could be a sign of elevated stress.
- A child or teen who has trouble sleeping may complain of being always weary, sleeping more than normal, or having difficulty falling asleep at night.
- Neglecting obligations: If a teenager starts delaying more than usual, forgets assignments, or ignores obligations all of a sudden, stress may be to blame.
- Changes in eating habits: Stress can lead people to eat too much or too little.
- Having more illnesses: Physical symptoms of stress are common. Stressed-out children frequently complain of headaches or stomachaches, and they may make repeated trips to the school nurse’s office.
Children and Adolescents’ stress management
Both adults and children experience stressors in their daily lives. The following methods can help in stress management:
- Good sleep. Both our physical and mental health rely on the critical role of sleep. Experts recommend nine to twelve hours of sleep every night for kids between the ages of six and twelve. Eight to ten hours of sleep every night are necessary for teenagers. Sleep must come first in order to manage stress. To safeguard your sleep, limit your screen time at night and avoid using gadgets in bed.
- Exercise. Exercise is a significant method of stress reduction for people of all ages. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends children aged 6 to 17 spend at least 60 minutes exercising every day.
- Discuss it. Talking about challenging situations with a trustworthy adult can help kids and teens gain perspective and come up with answers.
- Make time for leisure and entertainment. Whether it’s unplanned time to play with building blocks or uninterrupted hours to practise music or art, children and teens need time to do what brings them joy. Both children and teens should be aware of this. Another point is that while some youngsters want to transition between activities, others need more downtime. Maintain a good balance between your free time and recreational activities.
- Step outside. Spending time in nature is one of the best methods to lower stress and improve overall wellness. Those who live in areas with more green space reportedly feel reduced stress, anxiety, and despair.
- Write an essay on it. According to studies, writing about oneself can assist reduce mental anguish and improve health. According to some research, for instance, writing about positive emotions, such as the things you’re happy about or proud of, may help to minimise the signs of sadness and anxiety.
- Be more introspective. In a study of a 5-week mindfulness training course for 13 to 18-year-olds, researchers found that adolescents who learned mindfulness had much less emotional distress than those who did not learn mindfulness.
Tips for Parents to Help
Parents and other carers may have a big impact on the health of the family by developing their own healthy habits and helping children and teens discover stress-relieving activities. Parents can take the next actions:
Display efficient coping. With their carers, kids can talk about how they’ve processed and dealt with challenging situations.
Let kids to solve issues. It’s common to want to support your child through their problems. Nevertheless, when parents intervene to solve every minor problem, their children are denied the chance to learn useful coping skills. Allowing your children the flexibility to attempt to resolve their low-stakes difficulties alone will boost their confidence in their ability to handle pressure and disappointments.
the promotion of media literacy. Nowadays, teens spend most of their time online, where they run the danger of encountering questionable content, cyberbullying, or peer pressure via social media. Parents may help by restricting their children’s screen time and teaching them how to be smart online shoppers.
ward against negative thoughts. Math is not my strong suit. I don’t like my hair. I won’t be selected for the team. Why attempt at all?
Kids and teens often get caught up in negative thinking patterns. Yet, it is insufficient to contradict children’s critical self-talk. Remind them of occasions when they put in effort and improved, or ask them to think carefully about if what they are saying is true. If they can develop a positive frame of reference, they will grow more robust to stress.
How Psychologists can be of Service
Psychologists are experts at helping patients establish healthful mental health practises and manage stress. For advice on choosing a psychologist and information on therapies that are backed by the best available research, go to APA Division 53 (Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology).
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