Child Mental Health: Minimizing Childhood Stress

Newswise — Stress overload can cause your child to be withdrawn, depressed, irritable and even suicidal. Stress is a part of everyday life for both you and your child. Some people love stress and are very productive under pressure. Others dread it and fall apart.

Strange as it may sound, stress is a necessary part of life. Without the stress of everyday things, life would get pretty boring. You and your child wouldn't have to deal with the everyday events that make you think, respond to problems and grow. Too little stress can be as bad as too much stress because constant boredom can make you feel sad and even depressed.

The key to the balancing act is stress management - so try these stress busters: "¢ Make sure your child eats right and gets plenty of exercise and rest "¢ Tell them to listen to music. "¢ Let them draw. "¢ Inspire your child to write. "¢ Encourage them to play with the dog. "¢ Allow them to talk it out. Don't force your child, but give them lots of opportunities. "¢ Discourage the use of tobacco, alcohol or drugs. "¢ Help them to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Instead of saying, "I'm stupid," encourage your child to say, "we all make mistakes." "¢ Laugh together - rent a fun family film or go outdoors and have a snowball or water pistol fight. "¢ Encourage your school-ager or teen to start a hobby. "¢ Relax - lighten up their load. Does your child really need a half dozen after-school activities? Good old-fashioned play is a great stress buster.

Worried that your child may be stressed out already? If they have any of these signs, talk to your health care provider: - Headaches, backaches, chest pain, stomachaches, indigestion, nausea or diarrhea. - Rashes. - Overeating or under eating. - Sleep disturbances (too much sleep, restless sleep, difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, waking up early). - Twitching. - Having trouble concentrating or with school work. - Feeling anxious or worried. - Feeling inadequate, frustrated, helpless or overwhelmed. - Feeling bored or dissatisfied. - Feeling pressured, tense, irritable, angry or hostile. - Aggressive behavior. - Substance abuse. - Excessive or inappropriate crying. - Avoiding others.

About Mary Muscari: Mary Muscari, associate professor, Decker School of Nursing, Binghamton University, State University of New York"¨ Topics areas include parenting, from toddler age and up, especially teens. She has conducted a number of parenting workshops around the country; most popular topics: keeping kids safe from predators ('live' and Internet), bullying, raising nonviolent kids

Parenting books include: Not My Kid: 21 Steps to Raising a Nonviolent Child (2002)"¨ Not My Kid 2: Protecting your Kids from the 21 Threats of the 21st Century (2004). New books:"¨ Everything Book: Raising Adolescent Girls (Moira Mc Carthy with Dr. Mary Muscari) "¨Everything Book: Raising Adolescent Boys (Robin Weiss with Dr. Mary Muscari).