With mounting school pressure, social media, and jam-packed schedules kids are more stressed out than ever before.
8 On Your Side sat down with experts to help your children survive generation stress.
13-year-old Kurzen, a Polk County teen, admits life as a teen can be stressful. “School does, sometimes my friend arguing, that stresses me out,” she told 8 On Your Side.
Her stress can affect the rest of the family too. “It’s probably the most helpless feeling I’ve ever experienced,” said Kurzen’s mom Trisha.
Kurzen and her mom take part in “Raising Teen Girls” a program with Katie McNichol, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Lakeland who helps girls cope with stress.
“The majority of our phone calls are for stress management,” McNichol said. “First, we have to identify what are their stressors. Emotions are a huge part of it. They don’t understand their emotions. So we will teach them about what’s going on with themselves, and we really look at lifestyle.”
McNichol said the environment plays a big role. “I do see school pressure being significant, in terms of academics. Probably the number one thing that I’m seeing, is social,” she said.
Even growing up Kurzen, like many children, experienced stress, mainly taking on the weight of her friend’s problems.
Kurzen’s mom Trisha said she has learned how to help her daughter navigate her feelings through the program. She encourages other parents to not be afraid to seek help too. “Don’t hesitate. Don’t feel like you’re failing as a parent.”
In fact, children suffering stress is a trend doctors are now seeing more and more of. A key study by the Office of National Statistics found that one in ten children now suffer from mental health problems including stress, anxiety, and depression. Academic worries are the biggest cause.
“They have a lot on their plate, with the sports, extracurricular activities, and academics,” Dr. Beth Long, a Pediatric Psychologist with Nemours Children’s Hospital said.
For Kurzen, playing softball helps take her mind off things. But, experts say too many activities and demands can add to a child feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
“I think sometimes we need to take a step back and prioritize,” said Dr. Long.
Many kids are too busy to have time to play or relax after school. Doctors recommend that parents help their children slow down.
“Including the children in that decision, what they really enjoy, what really makes them happy, what they see their children striving to achieve, versus what they see them feeling anxious about, that’s really important,” Dr. Long said.
Of course there are things kids can’t cut back on, like school work. Experts say plenty of rest and exercise will help. Also, parents should set aside quality time to do fun activities together.
“That’s a huge help and a significant way for them to connect. It’s not that the parents will alleviate the anxiety, but they will understand their parents are trying to support them and help them,” said Dr. Long.
Experts say don’t force your child to talk about their stress, instead, parents should try talking about their own.
“Sometimes children feel there must be something really wrong with me, when anxiety is very normal,” said Dr. Long.
Dr. Long said when stress affects your child’s quality of life, that’s when parents should consider taking them to see an expert.