by Stephen Betts, LPC, ATR-BC

We often think of stress as mainly affecting adults.

We may not often stop to consider how stress affects children as well. 2020 has been a stressful year for most people. This year has brought many unexpected changes including health concerns, job losses, changes in daily routines, and working or learning from home. These changes have all produced stress. Stress impacts people differently depending on their emotional makeup and the way they think and behave, and some are better able to manage stress than others.

Because children are still developing the ability to regulate their emotions, they do not yet have the capacity to manage stress in ways that adults do. Even adults struggle to manage stress at times. This means that if you are stressed, then likely your children are stressed too.

Some leading stressors for children include:

  • Changes in family (divorce, remarriage, new sibling, etc.)
  • Changes in living situation (moved to new city, moved into different residence)
  • Changes in health of themselves or family member (accident or illness)
  • Changing schools
  • Changes in family finances
  • Bullying or teasing/rejection by peers

Children may show their stress in different ways than adults. They may lack the verbal ability to express the feeling of stress, and will often show the stress they feel by their behavior instead.

The good news is, just like adults, children can learn to develop skills to better cope with stress. Some coping skills for children include: Learning how to relax, practicing deep breathing, learning to think more positively, getting good sleep, eating healthy foods, getting outdoors and getting exercise. Also, kids need time to be kids. Playing with friends, reading a favorite book, and most importantly quality one-on-one time with parents and caregivers can greatly reduce a child’s stress levels.

If your child is experiencing symptoms of stress and needs a little extra help, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional counselor. A counselor will help your child express their feelings in a safe and therapeutic environment and help your child develop coping skills for stress. After all, parents need help too! None of us should have to go it alone.