April is National Stress Awareness Month. Boy, as children get older, they face stress because of academics, family dynamics, extra -curricular pressures and social media influences, sometimes simultaneously.
In a Centers and Disease Control and Prevention’s study that was published on March 31, 2022 these alarming findings pointed to “youth in crisis:”
- More than a 1/3 of high school students reported in 2021 that their mental health suffered during the pandemic.
- 44% interviewed said they persistently felt sad or hopeless during the past year.
In February of this year, the CDC reported an increase in ticks, particularly TikTok tics in girls. Based on emergency room data, the E.R. visits for girls, ages 12 to 17, nearly tripled during the pandemic. As of January, 2022, eating disorders, anxiety, trauma, STRESS, and obsessive-compulsive disorders were the reasons for E.R. visits that nearly doubled.
How does stress present itself? Common reactions to a stressful event can include the following:
- Feelings of fear, shock, anger, sadness, worry, numbness or frustration
- Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interest
- Difficulty sleeping or nightmares, concentrating and making decisions
- Physical reactions such as body pains, stomach aches, and skin rashes
- Worsening health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased use of tobacco, alcohol and other substances. Research shows that the earlier a person starts using drugs in their life, the greater the risk of long-term issues like a substance abuse disorder. The undeveloped brain of a youth is inclined to make bad decisions.
Did Covid Do This?
Many blame the pandemic for the greater incidences of mental health issues. However, The Surgeon General noted a “mental health crisis” between 2013 and 2019 BEFORE Covid 19 when rising numbers of kids and young adults were struggling with anxiety and depression.
John T. Walkup, Chairman of the psychiatry and behavioral health department at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, believes that “the biggest misconception is that Covid makes people mentally ill. From my point of view, Covid unmasked people who have underlying vulnerabilities.”
Ways to Combat Stress: What You Can Do As A Parent
- Maintain a normal routine.
- Watch and listen for any overwhelming concerns.
- Make your child feel safe and protected.
- Connect with teachers and parents about ways your child can cope.
- Get your child’s opinion about a prevention program. Make the program directly with him, not FOR him.
- Learn to accept things your child cannot change so you and he don’t become anxious.
- What makes your child feel calm and in control? Take control of your reaction.
- Set realistic goals for healthy living, wellness, and personal growth.
To Tamp Down His Stress:
- Have your child get the recommended amount of exercise. Consult with his doctor. You don’t want him in front of the television and cell phone all the time.
- Don’t send him sleep-deprived off to school. Turn off electronics by a certain time. Have him give you his phone before he goes to bed.
- Make a ritual of relaxation before bed-time. A hot shower at night will save time in the morning. Keep all lights off; they can be stimulating.
- If there’s a computer in his room, monitor the programs and software he uses.
- Avoid stimulants after dinner such as coffee, caffeinated tea, chocolate.
- Have him eat a good breakfast with fresh whole foods that reduce stress like eggs, artichokes, yogurt, and avocados.
Wesley Cullen Davidson
Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting. Currently, she is targeting her writing about recovery to parents whose children have substance abuse disorders.