Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Childhood Stress (Part 2: for Teenagers)

Grown-ups are often reluctant to acknowledge that young people get stressed too. Maybe partly because grown-ups, including parents sometimes contribute to your stress. It's interesting that they can also help you relieve that stress, if they make themselves available, and listen to you without criticizing. You have to do your part, though. Learn what stresses you. For example peer pressure to do things that may not be good for you; school and tests, if you're not prepared; parents treating you like you are younger than you are, or expecting too much from you; and other things that upset you. Learn what stress does to you. It can make you sick. Make you do things without thinking them through first, or without considering the consequences (like getting into trouble). Make you mad at people that may have nothing to do with the situation. Stress can make you try to escape through drugs/alcohol or unhealthy activities. Yes, stress can be messed up. But you CAN handle it.

Before you let stress get the best of you, figure out how to handle it better. Choose your friends carefully. If you notice them bringing you down constantly or trying to pull you into situations that you know are not good for you, dump them. Take responsibility for yourself, what you say and do. Followers are more stressed. Have people in your life that you trust. They'll help you see different possible ways to deal with problems. Some parents, or other adults are good for this. Know that you are important, valuable even. So you deserve to be healthy, and happy. If you are not, DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT. Also people who think positively, are less stressed and more successful. Focus on your strengths, even though people around you may try to point out your faults. Those things that challenge you (and stress you), are opportunities for you to be stronger. You may be surprised at how good you can really be.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Childhood Stress (Part 1: for Parents)

Yes, kids do have stress. And it is important to pay attention to it for some very good reasons. Including being able to help them learn to manage it healthily. As well as helping children avoid some of the negative effects of stress, including health problems (or making health conditions worse), delinquent behavior, alcohol and drug use, poor academic performance, and other behavior problems. I would say that over 90% of the children I've treated over the past 25 years presented with problems caused or exacerbated by stress in their lives. Children react to family crises, deaths, severe illness, and other traumatic events. However, they are also effected by the stress of family conflict, peer pressure, parental rules and expectations, school work and tests, and much more. Recall the stress of our childhoods. Similar to what effects children today in society (wars, crime, etc.), amplified by the media (and 24-hour per day news reporting), computers and the Internet.

Communication with your child gives them an outlet, and an opportunity to process their thoughts and feelings with someone they trust. Learn to listen to your children starting early. Situations will stress them differently as they grow. They need to have you available to them throughout their childhood and teenage years. Otherwise, certainly by the time they're teenagers, they will look for their answers outside of the home. Look for these signs of poor stress management: tantrums or other angry outbursts, declining grades, behavior problems (at school, home or the community), frequent health problems, drug or alcohol use, bad dreams or other sleep disturbance, bed wetting. Help your child by teaching them to relax, get exercise, eat and drink right, develop diverse interests, develop good study habits, learn to consider the consequences of their behavior, be age appropriately responsible for what they do and say. Of course, if you manage your stress well, and value the importance of stress management, you will be a good role model.

Next posting: Childhood Stress (Part 2: For Teenagers)