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Your Health Blog

    Kids and Stress

    Dr. Pamela Rogers, MD Pediatrics Deaconess Clinic  Pediatrics Deaconess Clinic  08/09/2016
    Kids and stress. Growing up can be hard sometimes, and back-to-school is a time of change, growth and yes, stress. 

    Stress is a part of life, and when managed, it can help us grow, strive and be our best.  But when there’s too much stress at once, there is stress caused by a serious situation, and/or a child doesn’t know how to manage it, stress can have a very negative effect on a child’s well-being.
    Whenever a child faces a change in life, stress can occur. 

    When you note these signs—especially several at the same time, and they occur over many days—you should be concerned about increased stress in your child’s life, and contact his or her physician.

    Signs of Stress in Children
     
    Here are some ways that children show signs of stress:
    • Headaches, stomachaches without apparent reason.
    • Decreased interest in normal activities
    • Change in sleep patterns
    • Decreased energy level
    • Decreased concentration or focus
    • Emotional changes, such outbursts or withdrawing.
    • Changes in appetite
    Bullying
     
    Bullying is another source of stress I see a lot of in my office, and is one of the biggest challenges kids face these days. The most important thing parents can do is keep an open line of communication and ask regularly about what is going on at school.

    Also, social media has made bullying worse—at least, the drama/emotional abuse type. There is never an opportunity for things to “die down” over an evening, weekend or the whole summer. Through social media, children—especially adolescents—have the ability to exclude, taunt and torment other kids easily and pretty much without boundaries and without even being anywhere nearby.
    It’s best that parents monitor their minor children’s social media—to see if they’re being mistreated (or being a bully themselves) as well as having a good handle on the quality of their relationships and watching for any concerning behavior.

    For more resources on bullying and social media/cyberbullying, be sure to check out the links below for great advice and insight.

    Bullying is Not OK.    
    Cyber Bullying: Important Information for Parents
     
    Screen Time & Stress

    Additionally, I (along with other members of the AAP) recommend that screen time should be limited to two hours or less per day. That includes:
    • TV
    • Video games
    • Smart phones, tablets, computers.
     
    It’s critical to end all screen time about an hour before bedtime. It’s been proven that screens disrupt the quality of sleep. So, keep screens out of the bedroom. Charging docks should be in a common area of the house. If kids aren’t sleeping well, it adds to their stress. It’s all related.

    Catastrophy-Related Stressors

    In the event of a major disaster, terrorism and other fears that are beyond your child’s control (and you’re scared too!), there are many things to consider. First of all, protect your children from the news. They don’t need to see the details. Also, they don’t understand that they may be seeing “replays” of one event, and instead think they’re seeing many new events happening. Secondly, reassure them of things that won’t change—that they’re loved, and that you will do everything you can to keep them safe.

    Here are some sites regarding disaster preparedness/response, including the topic of terrorism.

    AAP Says Disaster Preparedness Planning Should Focus More on the Unique Needs of Children
    Terrorism Disaster Fact Sheet

    Major Life Events

    One of the hardest things about being a child is that so many decisions are made around you that you have no control over, yet they affect every aspect of your life, such as divorce and relocation. Or things happen that no one has control over—such as deaths, disasters, etc.—that can also cause significant stress for children.

    Even if you have thought that your child was handling a situation well, if you see the signs of stress, it is probably time to investigate further. In cases of major family change, such as divorce, death of a loved one, etc. children (and even the whole family) usually benefit from some outside help from a therapist, a trusted adult at school or church, etc. If you are unsure of resources available to you, you can contact your child’s physician for assistance.
     
    For more information about children and stress. This page includes links to other relevant articles.  

    Learn more about the author

    Pamela Rogers, MD
    Specialty: Pediatrics
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