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Stressed Out Kids

Helping your child deal with life's demands


May 2014

Our ideal image of childhood is one filled with bicycle rides, baseball games and sleepovers – not worry, stress and overcommitment. Unfortunately, today's kids are often anxious about many aspects of their daily lives. As a parent, you can help your child live happier and healthier by understanding common childhood stressors and taking steps to address them.

What's the problem?

Are today's children more stressed out than past generations? "It would seem that way," says Carrie Cadwell, PsyD., HSPP, Indiana Psychological Association Public Education Campaign Liaison. She reports that according to the American Psychological Association's 2013 Stress in America survey, teens on average are reporting an increase in stress levels, with school ranking as the single biggest source of stress. In fact, during the school year teens reported higher stress levels than adults. School stress can relate to social relationships as well as academic performance, says Dr. Cadwell.

In addition, "Social media and electronic device use is a new source of stress that parents and children have had to figure out," says Austin P. Wade, B.A., practicum student at the University of Indianapolis Psychological Services Center. Stress can come from family disagreements about screen time, online "trolling" and bullying or ongoing pressure to present one's "best self" at all times.

Stress is not a negative word per se says Dr. Cadwell. Kids may experience positive stress, or "eustress," for events such as getting ready for prom or moving up a grade. However, Cadwell says the consequences of excessive stress can include fatigue, loss of energy or engagement, reduced interest in social activities, difficulties eating and sleeping and a decline in school performance. "Stress is also linked to greater vulnerability to physical conditions, such as the common cold, other viruses and autoimmune diseases," notes Wade.

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Tags: Health, In This Issue, Parenting

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