On November 3, 2009 the American Psychological Association released a report detailing the impact of stress on kids, tweens to be exact. A tween is a kid aged 8-12, which can be a very difficult time for a child. They don't fit into the little kids group and they are too young for the teenagers groups.
The really interesting part of this study is while kids say they are more stressed and worried more this year than before, only a small percantage of parents believed their kids were stressed. 45% of kids say they are more stressed while 28% of parents say their kids are more stressed. This is in line with how often parents underestimate their child's other risky behaviors such as drug use, depression, and sexual activity.
While it is widely accepted adults are encountering more stress, it seems we think children are immune. Kids stress most often over their family financial issues, their appearance and their ability to fit in. Finanacial issues top the list and this may be a huge surprise to most parents. Granted this may be more true in a less afluent family, but it still has an impact which cannot be ignored.
If we look at what a child needs to feel safe, financial security is huge. No child can feel secure if they know they may not have a place to live, or food to eat. No child is immune to the stress of poverty. Imagine waking up and going off to school only to come home and find your family's posessions on the street. Your home is not yours any longer. People are walking by and whispering, "How sad."
Families are in crisis in our country. Our kids are carrying much of the stress we as adults carry. Kids don't have the coping skills to handle that much stress. Think of the impact on their school activites. Think of the impact on their physical health. Will we be seeing more kids with ulcers, sleep disorders and obesity as a result?
Bottom line is this: if you are stressed out, chances are, so are your kids. Talking to them about what they are thinking or worried about or scared about will help. Reality can be pretty horrible, but the unknown is far more frightening. Kids tend to "awfulize" things based on their fantastic imaginations and the inability to distinguish what might happen with what will happen.
Share with your kids. Listen to what they are saying and what they are trying to say through their behaviors. Stress relievers can work for kids too. Eat well, rest, exercise and take time to do something you really enjoy. Take time to really know what your kids are experiencing. You may be surprised to find they are just as worried about the future as you are. For some tips on helping kids and adults deal with stress go to www.smhc.org