Strategies to Help Kids Manage Stress

By: Ainsley Schwartz

Stress—it’s unavoidable in our society. Stress is something that adults are expected to deal with on a daily basis, but kids experience a lot of stress too. Children may deal with stress due to family issues, pressure to keep up at school, drama with friends, or maintaining an interest in a hobby. Today’s kids are sometimes just as busy as their parents, which can lead to stress and anxiety at an early age. Most adults have developed coping mechanisms to help them handle their day-to-day stress. Children may have difficulty managing stress because they haven’t yet learned the strategies that will help them deal with stress throughout their lives. Identifying signs of stress in children at an early age and teaching them healthy coping mechanisms to manage their stress can encourage them to manage stress in a more positive way.

Signs of Stress in Children

In today’s society, many children experience high stress levels. It is important to notice the signs of stress in children and to help them learn to manage it in a healthy way. Children with abnormally high stress levels may exhibit some of the following signs:

  • Fearful of bad things happening to them or their loved ones
  • Isolate themselves from social situations with friends or family
  • Rapid breathing
  • Frequent stomachaches or dizziness
  • Excessive fidgeting/moving around
  • Ritualistic behaviors or obsessive tendencies
  • Change in eating habits
  • Change in sleeping habits (ex: insomnia, nightmares, bed-wetting)
  • Easily irritable/angered
  • Change in school performance

How to Address the Stress

To help kids manage their stress, it is best to maintain open lines of communication about the things that are making them so stressed out. After all, one of the quickest ways to get rid of stress is to talk about it with someone. Talking with your child about the stress in his life will teach him that it is normal to experience stress and give him a chance to release that tension. Children should learn at an early age that stress is normal and talking about the things that bother them is helpful. If that isn’t enough, there are many other, healthy stress-management coping strategies.

Ways to Cope

One of the simplest ways to manage stress is to talk about what is bothering you, but this is not always the easiest for children. Luckily, there are many other stress-management strategies that you can teach and practice easily at home or at school. Here are some great ideas for coping strategies that you can implement at home, at school, or in really any environment:

  • Count to ten
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Exercise or sports
  • Yoga
  • Heavy work (ex: wear a heavy backpack, pull a wagon)
  • Think happy thoughts
  • Get a drink of water
  • Laugh and be silly—smile!
  • Go for a walk
  • Listen to music
  • Talk to an adult/trusted friend
  • Draw/paint/create

Identify, Learn About, and Manage Stress

Talking with children about their problems is helpful, but sometimes talking is not enough. Through trial and error, you can find the coping strategies that are right for your child. When a child experiences a stressful situation at home or school, you should remind him of his preselected coping strategies and help him work through it, by modeling the strategy with him. With enough practice, children can become masters of their own stress-management, and this can set them up to be emotionally healthy adults.