Parent to Parent: Recognizing stress in children and what to do when you see it

April is Stress Awareness Month, and it has been recognized since 1992. But this year seems particularly important due to the rising numbers of stress not in just adults, but kids.

Data from the CDC released a few weeks ago shows that mental health of teens has declined drastically during the pandemic.

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Dr. Lukisha Gibbs sees her two children, ages 12 & 14, struggling.

"In this time period, just really keeping up with demands of school and their activities outside of school and just growing as a person," she explained.

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It’s stress, and it’s something you can help your child handle, according to Carol Muleta. She is a parenting consultant and author of The Parenting Odyessy- describing in part the triumphs of parenting in a pandemic.

"Teach them to recognize when they are stressed. There are signs and behavioral changes, and I think it’s important to give them that self-awareness. For young children, create a script to how they can communicate to others," said Muleta. "Their feelings provide a compass for them honestly. You don’t want to tell them that they are not upset or something shouldn’t bother them, because at that early age, their feelings are all they have. They are not aware of putting things in context or giving them the benefit of the doubt. They just know what they feel and that’s a very important tool."

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"What I do as a parent is making sure that I am present, when I say present where I am turning the noise off in my head with everything else going around me, I am just making sure that I’m present," said Gibbs. "As parents, we are nurturers, and we want to solve the issues that our kids have, and we don’t want them to suffer or experience stress or pain in any way, so often times we are rushing to solve it. We might not always know what they are going through, but I notice parents are in the rush to solve it sometimes and there’s an absence of listening and being present."

The CDC Acting Principal Deputy Director recently said the data they have collected echos a cry for help, and all we can do is recognize it and offer nonjudgmental support.