Stress management isn’t a skill we often teach children. The assumption is that kids live care-free lives and have no experience with stress. However, there are many things that can lead to stress in children. Stress is simply a function of the demands placed on us and our ability to meet them. Children face demands from school, home, and with peers. If they can’t meet those demands or feel overwhelmed by them, children become susceptible to stress.
Research findings suggests that today’s teens are experiencing stress patterns very similar to that of adults. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “many American teens report stress at unhealthy levels, appear uncertain in their stress management techniques and experience symptoms of stress in numbers that mirror adults’ experiences.”
For instance, the APA’s Stress in America survey found that 40 percent of teens reported feeling irritable and angry because of stress, 36 percent reported feeling anxious and nervous, while another 30 percent reported feeling sad or depressed. As for how stress affects their physical health, 36 percent of teens report that stress makes them tired, 36 percent say they experience headaches when stressed, and 23 percent said they’ve skipped meals because of it.
Sources of Stress
So what’s causing kids to stress these days? Quite a bit! As you read through these stressors, keep in mind that each child experiences stress differently. What might overwhelm one child might be a simple challenge for another. Some common stressors for children include taking standardized tests, not having enough down time, peer problems, social media use, family problems, current events, and bullying.
Bullying is especially problematic because social media ups the ante on bullying. Prior to social media, if you were picked on at school, usually you could take comfort in knowing that once the school day ended the torment was over.
Not so for today’s kids. Now bullying can follow them outside of school. Bullies can harass kids on various social media platforms and get others to join in. When you are a kid it’s hard to believe that you will be able to rebound from being publicly humiliated on social media. This kind of thinking and the inability for some kids to cope with the stress of being bullied have led some kids to take their own lives.
Signs of Stress
Many kids aren’t going to tell you when they feel stressed out. They might not even know that they are feeling overwhelmed. Therefore it’s important that you recognize the warning signs that a child is experiencing stress. Here are some common warning signs taken from this Stress Management resource.
Even though these kids report high levels of stress and stress related symptoms, they also state that they don’t know how to effectively manage their stress. According to the APA study, many teens turn to sedentary activities to cope with stress. For example, 46 percent of teens report playing video games to manage stress, 43 percent surf the Internet or go online, and 36 percent use watching television or movies for stress management.
Given these findings, it is clear that we need to teach children early on about stress and how to recognize stress in themselves. We must also teach them how to use effective coping strategies to manage stress.
I created this Stress Management Activity Bundle as a tool for parents, teachers, and counselors. This is a helpful tool to educate children about stress and how they can cope with stressful situations. Included in this bundle are worksheets, activities, and games. Children get to role play stressful situations, discuss common stressors for kids and teens, and also explore coping strategies to help them manage their stress in a positive manner.
This resource uses kid friendly language and scenarios. I recommend this for use with children ages 8 to 13 (Grades 3 to 8). The stress management skills kids learn from this bundle will benefit them even as adults.
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