We all feel stress. And children aren’t immune to the pressure. They may struggle with school, sports, and other daily demands. A recent national survey shows stress can be especially troubling for teenagers.
Every year, the American Psychological Association (APA) conducts an online survey to measure stress in the U.S. The survey asks Americans about their stress and their strategies for dealing with it. The latest survey included more than 1,000 teenagers. They ranged in age from 13 to 17.
Researchers used a 10-point scale to gauge each teen’s level of stress. A score of 1 meant no stress. A score of 10 meant high levels of stress. Study participants ranked their level of stress during the previous month.
Overall, teenagers are reporting more stress in their life. Surprisingly, their stress score often topped that of adults. Teens averaged 5.8, while adults were at 5.1. Compared with boys, girls were more likely to report high levels of stress.
School was the most common stressor among teens. In fact, more than a quarter of them reported feeling very stressed during the school year. They were also concerned about college and family finances. Many adolescents said they had trouble balancing school and other activities.
Stress can manifest in many ways. It can affect your child physically and emotionally. Long-term stress can especially take a toll. In the APA survey, irritability and anger were the 2 most common signs of stress. Many teens also suffered fatigue, headaches, and upset stomach.
Your child may not tell you if he or she feels stressed out. But certain symptoms may point to a problem. These include:
Restlessness or agitation
Withdrawal from family and friends
A lack of interest in once-favorite activities
A drop in grades or other problems at school
Frequent headaches or upset stomach
Every child deals with stress differently. Some children play video games. Others may surf the internet. These activities may be distracting. But they aren’t the best strategies for coping with stress.
If you notice your child struggling with stress, try these tips:
Talk with your child. Let him or her know you are interested in any problems. Listening closely and not interrupting can go a long way.
Plan some family exercise time, such as a walk or bike ride. Physical activity can naturally boost your child’s mood.
Encourage your child to eat a healthy breakfast. It can give him or her energy for the day to come.
Buy your child a journal. Writing down the day’s events can help clear your child’s mind.
Watch a funny movie together. Laughter is a great way to feel better fast.
Set a good example. Children often emulate how their parents deal with stress.
Want to learn how to better manage stress? Click here.
American Psychological Association
National Institute of Mental Health