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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Stress: It's Not Just For Grown Ups!

            When you hear the word “childhood”, what is the first thing that pops into your mind? Most of us automatically think of  sleeping in, wishing for snow days, building forts out of sheets and playing from sun up till sun down. Very few people correlate stress with the idea of childhood. With the increasing societal demands, the reality is that children deal with stress on a daily basis. Granted, they may not be worried about paying the bills, and unhappiness at their job, but they still face a variety of stressors ranging from school work, social acceptance, and changes in their daily lifestyles.

            Just as different things can cause stress, each child has different coping mechanisms of handling these situations. Like most adults, some children are capable of a smooth transition in a stressful situation, while others struggle to cope. The important thing is to acknowledge childhood stress and help minimize it by avoiding further stressors.

            As a parent, juggling a busy life can be time consuming and it can be easy to overlook the warning signs of stress in your child. Pay attention to how your child tackles an average day and make note if you notice any consistent changes in his/her mood or behavior. A child who usually loves school and makes good grades may began to neglect school work and find excuses to stay home. Even small changes, like becoming clingy or a change in appetite can be indicators that your child is stressed. In most situations, just talking about the issue and what is causing your child to feel overwhelmed can be the solution. However, there are more serious warning signs such as hostility and fighting; even drug and alcohol abuse can become evident if stress is not addressed. If you have noticed any physical changes like weight loss/gain, signs of physical or drug abuse, or depression in your child, contact our office or a mental health provider immediately.

            Remember though, not all stress is bad! A little pressure from a teacher to get a homework assignment completed on time can be the motivation that a child needs to do well in school. However, there is a fine line and if that line is crossed, and an excessive amount of “bad” or unnecessary stress can have harmful effects. Just like adults, children can suffer from lack of sleep, loss of appetite, and increased blood pressure, all of which affect a child’s well-being.  So this summer while your kids are out of school, give them a break from a stressful life! Take some time away from the hustle and bustle and play some ball and enjoy the sunshine!

For more information please feel free to visit healthychildren.org and kidshealth.org!

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