390 Lincoln Road
Sudbury, MA 01776
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Contact: John Guilfoil
Sudbury Lincoln CRANE Newsletter May 24
FEATURED TOPIC: Stress & Anxiety in Young Children
Stress can affect anyone who feels overwhelmed — even children. It may be difficult for adults to understand why a child might suffer from stress or anxiety, when they don’t have many responsibilities. However, even very young children can have worries or even feel stressed at times.
According to KidsHealth from Nemours, stress is a function of the demands placed on us and our ability to meet them. These demands can come from family, jobs, friends or school, but can also come from within, often related to what we think we should be doing versus what we’re actually able to do.
Nemours is a nonprofit pediatric health system dedicated to life-changing medical care and research, helping kids grow up healthy, advocating for kids nationally and training tomorrow’s pediatric experts.
Children as young as preschoolers can feel the impact of stress in the form of anxiety when they’re separated from their parents. As children get older, pressures from school and social environments can also create higher levels of stress.
According to the 2016 MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey, the percentage of students at the Curtis Middle School who reported feeling that life was “very” stressful in the past 30 days increased from 12-13 percent in 2014 to 16 percent in 2016. Survey results also indicate that reports of recent stress increase by grade, from 13 percent in seventh grade to 18 percent in eighth grade, and that reports of stress are nearly twice as high among females (20 percent) as males (11 percent).
Stress related to school issues is most common, reported by 44 percent of students, followed by stress related to social issues, reported by 19 percent of students.
KidsHealth reports that other sources of stress include:
- Too many activities. Many kids are too busy to have time to play creatively or relax after school. Children who complain about all their activities or who refuse to go to them might be over-scheduled.
- Other people’s stress. Kids’ stress may be intensified by more than just what’s happening in their own lives. Do your kids hear you talking about troubles at work, worrying about a relative’s illness or arguing with your spouse about financial matters?
- World news. Kids who see disturbing images on TV or hear talk of natural disasters, war and terrorism may worry about their own safety and that of the people they love.
- Complicating factors. Complicating factors such as an illness, death of a loved one, or a divorce can magnify stress when added to the everyday pressures that children face. Even the most amicable divorce can be tough for kids because their basic security system — their family — is undergoing a big change.
It may not always be easy to recognize when a child is feeling stressed out. However, short-term behavioral changes such as mood swings, acting out, changes in sleep patterns, or bedwetting can be indications. Some children may experience physical symptoms like stomachaches or headaches, and others may have trouble concentrating or completing schoolwork.
Younger children may develop new habits like thumb sucking, hair twirling or nose picking. Older children may begin to lie, bully or defy authority. A child who is stressed may also overreact to minor problems, have nightmares, become clingy or have drastic changes in academic performance.
To help your child reduce and cope with stress, KidsHealth recommends the following:
- Proper rest and good nutrition can boost coping skills, as can good parenting. Make time for your children every day — whether they need to talk or just be in the same room with you, make yourself available and express interest in them.
- Talk about what might be causing your child’s stress. Together, you can come up with solutions like cutting back on after-school activities, spending more time talking with parents or teachers, developing an exercise regimen or keeping a journal.
- Anticipate potentially stressful situations and help your child prepare for them.
- Some level of stress is normal. Let your kids know it’s OK to feel angry, scared, lonely, or anxious, and that other people share those feelings. Reassurance is important, so remind them you’re confident that they can handle the situation.
- When children can’t or won’t discuss their stressful issues, try talking about your own. This shows that you’re willing to tackle tough topics and are available to talk with them when they’re ready.
- Books can help young kids identify with characters in stressful situations and learn how they cope.
Parents should know that, in general, they have the skills to deal with their child’s stress and should feel confident in their ability to help their children. The time to seek professional help is if any of these changes in behavior persist, when stress is causing serious anxiety, or when the behavior causes significant problems at school or at home.
For more information and resources about young children and stress, visit the KidsHealth website or talk to your child’s doctor.
Sudbury SEPAC Lotus Blossom Fundraiser
Tuesday, May 30 from 5-9 p.m. at Lotus Blossom
William James College INTERFACE Referral Service is a mental health and wellness referral line available to families in the Sudbury and Lincoln Communities as well as Boston families with children in the Sudbury and Lincoln schools. This free and confidential service is available to residents of all ages in member towns.
Callers will be asked to describe their need and provide insurance, appointment time and location preferences. INTERFACE staff will then use their extensive database to find a licensed therapist or provider match with the appropriate specialization. They are able to make referrals in the Sudbury, Lincoln and Boston areas. INTERFACE is available Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 888-244-6843 (toll free).
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