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Children and young people today are facing many pressures from many different sources. They are experiencing stress at school (homework, fitting in, bullying, tests), stress at home (parental separation, poverty, divorce, family expectations), and worldwide media stress (things they hear and see on the news, social media and online).
Spotting the signs of stress in children and young people
The Mind Charity website has helpful guidance on 'How to manage stress', and recognise the common signs, how to deal with pressure, tips to avoid triggers, and includes a section for friends and family. They also have advice on 'How can I be more resilient', which has steps to manage stress and make lifestyle changes.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists website has practical content which outlines what stress is, its causes, and our ‘Fight or Flight’ built in response on their page titled 'Feeling stressed'. They also have an advice page for parents and carers on ’Traumatic Stress in children'.
Children can experience stress early on in their lives. While young people may be able to recognise stress and ask for help, primary school-aged children may have less awareness of stressful feelings, so they may find it difficult to communicate when they are feeling stressed. It is also harder for parents/carers to notice the signs of stress in younger children as childhood stress can appear as different physical and emotional symptoms. Some indications that your child could be stressed are:
- Complaining of stomach-aches or headaches
- Mood swings or outbursts
- Changes in their sleep pattern, or bedwetting
- Trouble concentrating and school refusal
- Become withdrawn
We asked a group of 8 and 9 year olds - What is stress and it's symptoms?
The children's answers included: when you feel sad; frustrated or angry; feel up and down; or have a wobbly tummy. They understood stress as something you feel when you are being wound up, when something doesn't go right or if you see other people who are stressed this makes you feel stressed.
We have created the below symptoms of stress chart to match the children's answers which parents/carers can use with their child to help them identify stress.
We also asked the group of 8/9 year olds what can help if they are feeling stressed, and what things would help them the most when stressed:
The above chart shows the children placing stress balls (they particularly liked the idea of making their own stress ball), cuddly toys or doing something creative like colouring-in as the top things they would do to feel better. One mentioned they like using Anime (japanese cartoon) websites. Talking to someone was placed last.
Encouraging your child or young person to talk about their feelings and worries can help them learn to cope with stress.
How should I talk to my child/young person about their feelings?
The NHS Choices website has an advice page on how to start a conversation with your child tiled ‘Talking to children about their feelings’
MindEd-for families website has a resourceful section titled ‘Talking to My Child’ (external link) to help you find ways to communicate to children and teenagers when they might need it.
Resources for children and young people to explore their emotions
The Cosmic Kids website has some fun yoga sessions on YouTube and mindfulness activities for children.
The Childline website has a really good advice section titled ‘Coping with Stress’ aimed at children.
If you have a teenager, you can refer them to our advice page on TheSource
The Royal College of Psychiatrists website has a list of recommended 'mental health books for adults, children and teenagers' which address a whole range of health and wellbeing topics.
Suffolk Libraries has a list of self-help books suitable for young people and parent/carers to request at their local library. Visit www.suffolklibraries.co.uk
Parents/carers can also find various book recommendations to support your child with all sorts of issues from the Suffolk Parent Hub
Take a look at our list of 'Videos and creative things to help support children's mental health'.
I think my child is stressed, what should I do?
Listening to how they feel can make a big difference.
Helping them to break down big tasks or problems into smaller ones can help them feel less overwhelmed.
Stress can be a sign of depression. If you suspect your child is depressed, arrange an appointment at your GP surgery and go with them to seek advice and support. You can also find out if their school or college offer counselling for pupils/students.
Alternatively, you can make a referral or get advice about wellbeing and mental health support services from the Suffolk Children & Young People's Emotional Wellbeing Hub
Where can I find useful resources?
If you are worried about your child's behaviour and need some parenting tips to help you manage their emotional wellbeing, as well as look after yourself, read the 'YoungMinds Parent Survival Guide'. YoungMinds also have a Parents Lounge with lots of 20 minute activity ideas, conversation starters and resources.
How can I help my child cope with exam stress?
TheSource website for young people has lots of information and support for students on how to manage exam stress. There's also a video from Samuel Ward Academy students who talk about the best way parents and carers can help support their teenager through exam stress. Visit: www.thesource.me.uk/health/planning-for-exams
Where can I find local support groups and organisations who can help?
Here is a list of local support services and organisations for stress (you can filter the list for what you need).
Where can I find a useful health and wellbeing App?
If you are looking for helpful phone apps that can provide some in-hand support to a young person struggling with emotional issues, please see our list of the best emotional wellbeing apps reviewed by young people.
Who can I speak to for advice?
If you are concerned about the mental health of a child or young person aged 0-25, please contact the Suffolk Children and Young People's Emotional Wellbeing Hub to get advice or make a referral.
Other services you can contact for support:
YoungMinds Parent Helpline
Call: 0808 802 5544. Their helpline is available Monday-Friday, from 9.30am to 4pm.
The YoungMinds helpline has trained advisers who offer friendly and confidential advice to help answer your questions.
Suffolk School Nursing - ChatHealth Text Service
Text 07507 333356 for confidential health advice from the school nurse (available Mon-Fri 9.30am to 4.30pm).