Kids and young adults today are more stressed than ever. There have been considerable spikes in stress-induced problems such as anxiety and depression among the younger generation. Recent studies indicate that today’s kids and teenagers are 5 to 8 times more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than kids who lived during the Great Depression.
This is alarming news, especially to parents. The more the kids get stressed, the more their mental health declines. In a survey by American Psychological Association, teenagers reported having the worst mental health among all age groups.
So today’s parents have to deal not only with the COVID-19 pandemic but also a mental health pandemic that plagues their kids. Parents need to learn how to create a stress-free home environment for their kids to protect their mental health from declining.
Here we delve deeper into the causes for kids’ stress, how technology worsens anxiety among kids, and how parents can reduce stress in their kids’ lives.
Common Causes of Stress in Kids
Plenty of things can cause stress in the kid’s lives. The most common causes of harmful strains for kids are:
Kids today live in a highly competitive world. There is enormous pressure for succeeding. Academic inflation has put a burden on the kids to excel from an early age. The kids are overscheduled, and with online learning during COVID-19, the pressures have only mounted. Academic pressure can cause stress in kids due to fatigue, tiredness, fear, and anxiety of underperforming.
Bullying is a severe problem for kids. Kids and teenagers are vulnerable to being bullied in school or online. Bullying takes a psychological toll and is known to cause post-traumatic stress disorders. Bullying incidents can lead the kids to be highly stressed and even depressed.
Kids are overwhelmed with academic and social activities. Today’s kids have grown up with technology, and they spend a lot of time online. Busy online and offline schedules result in less time for stress-relieving activities such as sports and exercises. Hectic schedules leave kids little time for coping with their problems, increasing their stress levels.
Family dynamics are also a factor for stress among the kids. Any ups and downs in family life can cause tremendous pressure for the kid as they depend on their parents for stability. If kids grow up in an unhappy household or are neglected, it can affect their mental health. Kids from complex families can have a hard time coping with stress.
While these causes of stress are not new, there is one other cause that has increased stress levels for kids today. That is technology.
Stress and the Role of Technology
Between 2005 and 2017, teenagers and young adults showed a significant increase in psychological stress and depression. What happened during this period? There was the rise of smartphones and social media.
Kids and teenagers of this decade are growing up in a media-saturated world. With smartphones and the internet, kids are bombarded with activities to do online. Technology is inviting more stress and also making it difficult for the kids to manage their stress.
For younger kids, high screen times are taking time away from other activities. Especially with online learning and educational tools, kids are not getting enough exposure socially. A recent study found that excess screen times hinder the kids’ ability to recognize emotions leading to isolation and low self-esteem. Kids also have fewer chances for a mental break when they are constantly on their phones. This gives them no outlet for the stress they experience.
Among teenagers, excessive use of social media creates a need for validation and causes insecurity, inducing stress. Excess use of social media apps such as Instagram, Facebook, etc., makes teens more prone to social comparisons, which they are particularly vulnerable to at their age.
Hence, technology has been causing digital stress to kids, becoming more prominent in recent years. While helping their kids with stress management, parents should also focus on alleviating the digital stresses of their kids.
Before learning about dealing with stress in kids, let’s understand the long-term impact of stress.
Impact of Stress on Kids
Stress impacts kids and teenagers on multiple levels. High levels of stress lead to:
Poor Socioemotional Wellbeing
Kids who are stressed are more likely to experience significant declines in their socioemotional well-being. Unmanaged stress can lead kids to become more socially withdrawn and isolated from their peers. Social withdrawal, in turn, increases stress, and this can become a vicious circle. Stress leads to poor socioemotional development of kids.
Negative Behavioral Changes
Stress often causes unwanted behavioral changes in the kids. Kids who are unable to manage their anxiety can become defiant. Stressed kids can get into unnecessary arguments, oppose their parents, and neglect their responsibilities when they become overwhelmed with pressures in life.
Stress can induce physical ailments. Kids who cannot deal with stress can face eating disorders such as overeating. Anxiety attacks, nausea, post-traumatic stress disorders, depression, etc., can be caused by unmanaged stress.
Weak Academic Performance
Kids and teenagers who are stressed have difficulties concentrating. They also have trouble remembering and organizing things. These negative changes often cause kids to falter behind in their studies as they become constantly distracted and fail to cope with their stress.
Stress has damaging and long-term impacts on kids’ lives. Parents should work together with the kids to help them cope with day-to-day stress.
How Parents Can Alleviate Stress in their Kids’ Lives
Parents need to address all kinds of stresses, including digital stress while helping kids with stress management. Here we discuss how you can alleviate stress in your kids’ life using a holistic approach.
Recognize signs of unresolved stress in your kids
Be on the lookout for any distressing or disturbing signs in your kids. Sudden changes in behavior, increased anger, lack of concentration, poor academic performance, etc., could be signs of unresolved stress among kids. Do not immediately reprimand your kids when they exhibit negative emotions. Acknowledge your kids’ feelings. By acknowledging their emotions, you can identify their stress at early stages before it can cause any long-term damage to kids.
2. Try to understand the reason behind your child’s stress.
Listen to your kids when they confide in you. Be patient, open-minded, and empathetic. Researchers have suggested that kids better disclose their anxiety with parents who are more communicative. Avoid judgments when your kids talk about their stress to create a trusting environment. An understanding attitude while talking about stress will help kids feel confident about sharing. Sharing will help you identify the reason behind your kids’ stress and give you a head start in helping them cope with it.
3. Encourage your kids to reframe stress
Kids have a negative attitude towards stress. They can be overwhelmed with stress and feel there is no solution. Try to reframe this attitude. For example: if your kid is stressed due to pressure in studies, talk to them about it. Assure them that it is normal and share your own experience or experience of others who faced similar problems. Tell them how you overcame the stress and ensure that they are not alone. When you frame their stress as a common problem that can be resolved, kids will feel more confident about managing the stress.
4. Establish a healthy day-to-day routine
Today’s kids are overscheduled. Kids spend a lot of time online both for study and fun. Spending too much time on screens can hamper their day-to-day activities. High screen times lead to an imbalance in their daily routine and invite stress. Kids will have less time for stress-relieving activities such as sports, exercise, family time, etc. They can also feel constantly busy when social media apps take up most of their time.
As a parent, you can establish a daily routine to balance your kids’ time. Daily routines help a child establish stability, preventing excessive stress. Schedule screen times and help your kids regulate their use of social media. Allocate time for outdoor activities and family events so kids can relieve their stress and not burnout.
5. Monitor/Limit Screen Time for kids
Kids spend a lot of time on apps such as Instagram, Facebook, Messenger, etc. While it is an essential part of the kids’ social life, excessive use often induces stress. A survey of 450 teenage social media users indicated that 47% of the teenagers suffered from anxiety, and 35% were poor sleepers. Poor sleep patterns and anxiety can lead to high levels of stress in kids.
Regulate screen usage of your kids to limit excessive screen times. Discuss acceptable screen time range and monitor your kids’ activities online. Use parental control apps to track the overall times kids are spending on social media remotely.
7. Check for any signs of bullying
Bullying is a common cause of stress among kids. Bullying incidents, especially cyberbullying, are challenging to detect since it happens online. While victims of traditional bullying can find safety at home, kids are vulnerable to cyber bullies all the time. A survey indicated about 43.7% of 234 students did not talk about their online victimization by cyberbullying. So stay alerted if kids show any signs of bullying such as aggressive behavior, social withdrawal, poor academic performance, etc. If your kids are being bullied, address the incident with concerned authorities. Help your kids cope with bullying through external counseling and other coping strategies to reduce chances of any post-traumatic stress.
8. Promote digital media literacy among your kids
A lot of things that happen in digital media can be stressful for kids. Cyberbullying and online harassment, online predators, scams, etc., can be sources of stress. Try to educate your kids about the appropriate use of social media. Work with them to enforce safety apps such as app blockers, device safety features, location alerts, etc. Teaching kids about online safety and implementing safety features empowers them to develop safer cyberspace habits to reduce digital stress.
9. Motivate your kids to exercise
Exercise is a great stress reliever. Encourage your kids to exercise. Make exercise a fun family activity or help your kids pick a sport they enjoy. Motivate your kids to participate in games, sports clubs, etc. Go out on weekends for outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, etc. By making outdoor activities fun, you can increase your kids’ interest in exercise. Exercise provides an outlet for kids’ stresses while promoting good health.
10. Help your kids to cope with stress
Do not solve your kids’ problems yourself. Teach them problem-solving techniques. Give your kids the opportunity to solve stressful issues to help them gain confidence. Help your kids cope with stress independently. You can do this by providing support and counsel but letting them decide what actions they should take. Healthy coping can help your kids’ manage stress better in the long run.
11. Teach stress-management techniques to your kids
Encourage your kids to adopt healthy stress-management techniques such as meditation, breathing exercises, etc. Support hobbies of your kids such as painting, music, etc. Kids will better manage stress if they have a sound mind and an outlet for their stress. So integrate stress-management activities into the daily lives of your kids.
Parents play an essential role in relieving the stress of their kids. Understanding the sources of kids’ stress and the long-term impacts better prepares parents for helping the kids. By establishing a healthy routine, teaching problem solving and integrating stress-management activities, parents can empower them to deal with their stress independently and confidently.