Stress among children and adolescents is on the rise, and mental health professionals are seeing the impact as more families seek treatment for their children and adolescents to address stress-initiated behavioral illnesses such as eating disorders.
Due to the connection between anxiety and stress-initiated mental illnesses like eating disorders, Eating Recovery Center encourages parents to take proactive steps to understand the impact of stress on their children, identify events and situations that may induce stress and recognize patterns of thinking and behavior that may indicate anxiety:
1. Childhood stress generally fits into one of four categories: personal, interpersonal, interfamilial and global (a stress reaction to national or world news).
2. Children of all ages are vulnerable to the effects of stress. Although they may internalize stress differently, children at different ages – from toddlers to teenagers – can all suffer from anxiety.
3. There is no universal response to stress. Children at different developmental stages and under different life circumstances will respond to stress differently.
4. The burden of stress is cumulative. Just like adults, children and adolescents can only “take so much,” and multiple stressors can become increasingly difficult for a young person to manage.
5. Even positive change can be stressful. For children and adolescents, change can be difficult, even perceived positive changes such as starting at a new school or joining a new sports team.
To help parents minimize stress in their children, the Center recommends following these four guidelines:
1. Be aware of your own stress as a parent and recognize how your words and actions can directly or indirectly affect your child.
2. Make yourself available to discuss their perceptions of stressful situations.
3. Talk to your children if you feel that something is causing them anxiety; do not wait for them to vocalize their feelings to you.
4. Provide age-appropriate information regarding their questions or concerns.