Matt didn’t seem like himself anymore. He was on edge and beginning to detach from the family. His irritability started to cause the Smith family to feel like they were walking on eggshells. As Mrs. Smith looked at all the ways Matt was going downhill, she realized this started at the beginning of the school year. He was juggling hard classes, sports, and the transition into a new school. Matt was stressed and needed help.
The life of a child can be hard and often stressful. Child stress has many warning signs that lead down a negative path quickly if not addressed. Parents often rationalize changes they see to be normal behavior when they are actually warning signs of a bigger problem. Here are some warning signs your child is struggling with stress and what to do about it.
- Trouble sleeping or getting too much sleep
- Exhaustion even after sleeping regular amounts
- High anxiety, panic attacks, depression
- Destructive behaviors like lying, drugs, alcohol, cutting, promiscuity, shoplifting, sneaking out, etc.
- Excessively moody without a reasonable explanation
- Drastic changes in your child’s appearance or behavior, a sudden drop in grades, a feeling like he is a totally different kid, weight loss or gain etc.
Parenting kids at all stages can be challenging but know your child needs you to pay attention and help. If your child shows some of these warning signs, here are 3 C’s to help:
As much as your child may want to be alone, we all have a human basic need to connect. You may get rejected at first, but continue to pursue him gently. This isn’t about smothering; it’s about coming alongside your child. Attacking and criticism can destroy your connection. Meet him where he is instead of trying to pull him out of his struggle. If you think your child is suffering from depression, here are some ways to help and connect.
Express your care and love for your child. Don’t condemn him for his behavior. This will create more stress. Help your child understand that because you love him, you are concerned and worried. You can also help him problem solve with these techniques. Help him see the path to changes he can make to avoid the struggle. It is also good to ask if there’s something you are doing as a parent to add to the stress. You want to be part of the solution, not the problem.
3. Call for help
There is no shame in asking a safe family friend, mentor, or professional to help. Sometimes an outside voice can help you see something new. Your child needs a safe person to guide him through the stress. As a therapist, I act as an advocate for my client and communicate what he needs to his parents. A professional can guide the whole family down a healthy path.
Remember part of your role as a parent is to help decrease stress and not add more. Are your high expectations causing stress for your child? Does your high-stress level pour out onto his making it worse? Are there ways you can give your child a break and lessen the stress load?
Tell us! What helps you when you are stress spiraling?
Teri Claassen is a Jesus follower, wife to Dan, mommy to one boy and one girl, a foster mom to kids in need, and a therapist at Renewed Horizon Counseling in Tampa, FL.