Children and young adults today report feeling more stress and anxiety than ever before, especially towards the end of the school year. One of the biggest challenges the adults in their lives face is understanding, and intervening, before stress becomes toxic to their well-being. So how can parents and educators help?
We need to reconsider how stress impacts our children. Just because other students appear focused and are finishing the year strong doesn’t mean your child is the same. The expectations of the environment, months of homework, focus and fatigue could be interfering with stress management. Their behavior says more than the stressful event itself; it’s how their body responds to stress that we need to be looking at if we want to help them thrive.
Signs of Stress in Children
In younger children, picking up new habits, or reverting old habits is a common sign of stress. Wanting to be near a parent, asking for more time with them or needing to fall asleep with a parent is a sign they need some support. Other signs include thumb sucking, hair twirling, or nail biting. Children suffering from stress may also overreact to minor problems, have nightmares, lie, react aggressively, have trouble sleeping, or have drastic (normally worsening of) changes in academic performance.
According to Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, “If the stress response is extreme and long-lasting, the result can be damaged, weakened systems and brain architecture with lifelong repercussions.” This is why we test neurotransmitters before the end of the school year so we can support the levels that are taxed. (NT link here).
Here are a few more great resources to help your child deal with stress and anxiety. I use these books with my client and their parents quite a bit. They are extremely effective and easy for kids as young as 5 to understand.
Books and Resources for Stress Reduction
- Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Help Your Child Regulate Emotional Outbursts and Aggressive Behaviors
By Pat Harvey ACSW LCSW-C and Jeanine Penzo LICSW
This book has been an excellent resource for both parents and professionals working with children. Harvey provides easy to implement strategies and tools for creating change quickly. I recommend this book because it helps parents understand the function of their children’ behaviors while encouraging validation and empathy in order to create long-lasting change.
- Bloom: 50 Things to Say, Think, and Do with Anxious, Angry, and Over-the-Top Kids
By Lynne Kenney and Wendy Young
Dr. Lynne Kenney and Wendy Young have collaborated with over 30 experts (including our therapist Emily Roberts and CEO Pam Machemehl Helmly) to offer parents, teachers, and clinicians the tools to raise calm, confident children. They’ve created a brain-based approach to parenting children that are stressed and anxious using neuroscience and the best practices in mental heath.
- The Opposite of Worry: The Playful Parenting Approach to Childhood Anxieties and Fears
By Lawrence J. Cohen
Dr. Cohen provides parents and clinicians simple yet effective strategies for managing children who struggle with anxiety. Whether it be social stressors, ruminating or obsessive thoughts, or avoidance of school and/or previously enjoyable activities, Cohen gives parents the support and structure they need to help their child combat worry.
- How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk
By Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
One of the best parenting books I’ve ever read. If you want to have your child listen and be able to speak themselves, this is an amazing book. How we talk to teens helps solidify whether they will listen or not, and helps create a two-way channel of communication. I love this book because it really does put into words how to better communicate with them during times of anxiety and stress.
Great Books For Kids Dealing With Stress
- What to Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming OCD (What-to-Do Guides for Kids)
By Dawn Huebner
Love this book. As a clinician, I use it in therapy and suggest parents use the workbook activities at home to strengthen skills which help children understand and extinguish anxiety-driven thoughts and behaviors. Although some stress in childhood is healthy, Huebner helps children and their parents manage uncomfortable emotions and situations with ease.
- Master of Mindfulness: How to Be Your Own Superhero in Times of Stress
By Laurie Grossman
Master of mindfulness is a unique and powerful book written for kids, by kids, to help them conquer stress and become more confident, focused, and calm in the wake of everyday stressors from homework to hurt feelings. This book provides real tools and tips that are kid (and teacher) approved.
- Angry Octopus: An Anger Management Story introducing active progressive muscular relaxation and deep breathing
By Lori Lite
The skills gained in this book and all of Lite’s online resources help kids learn how to tune into their body and gain control using techniques to relax their nervous system, calm their mind, and gain control control over distractions. Her resources have been a long-time favorite of mine, and many of these stressed children (and parents) I’ve worked with.
- Be Mindful Card Deck for Teens
By Gina M. Biegel
Tweens, teens and adults have been loving this mindfulness resource. I’ve been using this in my groups and individuals, and it provides great ideas and quick activities to use at all hours of the day. What I like about it is that it offers new and unique ideas as well as games that everyone in the family can use to calm the brain, no matter what time of the day it is.
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Emily Roberts MA, LPC is the clinical therapist for the Neurogistics Children’s Program. She has worked with Neurogistics for over a decade. Emily is also an award-winning author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Becoming Who You Are, Psychotherapist, TV & Media Contributor, educational speaker and parenting consultant. Express Yourself is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon. To learn more about Emily click here.
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