Is Your Child Stressed?

Everyone has felt stressed out at one time or another. Whether it’s feeling overwhelmed at work, financial pressures, family drama or schoolwork overload, we’ve all been faced with that sense of “It’s just too much to handle.” Most of us have learned to take a breath, have a good cry, take it out at the gym, or blow off steam with friends. We learn these self-soothing techniques through time and experience. It’s important to know how to handle the impact of stress. Its effects can be unhealthy and dangerous. Studies show that girls are feeling the dangerous effects of stress at a younger age than ever before.

Shifting the Focus

Psychologist and CBS News contributor Lisa Damour addresses the pressures that young girls are facing from today’s society today in her book, “Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls.” Damour explains the unrealistic picture the media paints of what girls should aspire to be. This often causes stress and anxiety because the girls don’t feel like they will ever live up to those standards. Damour believes the battle against the messages of beauty the media is sending to young girls starts with their parents. If parents make a point to shift the focus to the girls’ creativity, cleverness, or how interesting they are, it’ll send a different message to their daughter.

“There are unique pressures that girls face,” said Damour. “They are achieving unbelievable things these days, and yet, they know they are still judged heavily on how they look.” By focusing on the non-superficial aspects, parents can build up confidence in their daughters based on her abilities and intelligence, not on how she looks. This can help diminish the stress and anxiety that society has fostered in young girls.

It’s Part of the Growing Process

Damour makes a call to action for young girls experiencing stress and anxiety, asking them to make it a part of their growing process. The feelings they experience aren’t setbacks, but simply opportunities to gain insight and knowledge about themselves. She encourages parents to explain to their children that stress and anxiety is a healthy way of showing that they need to pay attention to challenges in their life, rather than a problem that needs to be eliminated. 

Signs & Potential Causes Your Child Is Anxious or Stressed

Anxiety and stress levels have risen among young people overall, but studies show that it has skyrocketed in young girls. Teens’ stress levels far exceed what doctors consider healthy, and they top the average reported stress levels in adults. Jessica Beal, Youth Crisis Center Family Link Therapist, says that most of the children she works with have these common stressors:

  • Pressure to perform well in school
  • Feeling different from their peers
  • Uncertainty about the future
  • Chaotic home life

Developing a personal awareness of what triggers stress and anxiety is key for youth to learn how to cope with those triggers. But, how do you know if your child is experiencing stress? With hectic schedules and long work hours, the warning signs of stress or anxiety in your child can often go unnoticed. Here are a few common indicators of stress in children that Beal observes:

  • Stomach aches and headaches
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Agitation or “shutting down”
  • Non-stop fidgeting
  • Racing thoughts or an inability to focus

Developing a Support Network Is Key

“No matter what age, a good support network can make a big difference in how secure someone feels in their ability to cope with stress and anxiety,” says Beal. “Children in particular are a lot more confident in themselves, and their decision making, when they know they have people in their corner to root them on.”

The first step to dealing with anxiety is acknowledging that you are not alone. You don’t have to struggle in silence. While working with families in the Family Link program, Beal helps each family member develop a support network. Whether it’s school staff members, extended family members or friends, having someone to reach out to when help is needed can make all the difference.

The Family Link program provides professional and compassionate short-term, outpatient counseling services to families with children ages 6-17 who are experiencing concerns that could disrupt the health and stability of the family. These services are available at no cost to residents of Baker, Clay, Duval, St. Johns and Nassau counties through appointments at the child’s school or other community locations. Click to learn more about Family Link and the 5 Ways to Strengthen Your Family. All Family Link counseling sessions are confidential. To learn more about services, please call (904) 720-0007.

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“ 5 Ways to Strengthen Your Family”

National Child Abuse Prevention Month

A 2017 study estimated that 1,720 children in the United States died that year from abuse and neglect. Of those fatalities, 72 percent of the children were younger than three years old. Prevention of these types of tragedies is why the Youth Crisis Center is promoting National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Every April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month helps spark a conversation about how we can keep our children safe and give them a childhood free of violence. When the initiative first began, National Child Abuse Prevention Month was focused on the recognition and prevention of abuse. Now, the efforts have widened to include promoting healthy parenting and strong families through education and community support.

Parents or legal guardians are responsible for creating a positive environment in which children deserve to grow up. However, millions of children are abused, neglected and mistreated by those trusted adults. Child abuse can come in many different forms: physical, sexual, verbal or psychological. Child neglect can also present as psychological, emotional or medical neglect. Many of the children experiencing mistreatment by their caregivers have overlapping areas of abuse and neglect.

Risk Factors

There are some well-known risk factors that may increase the likelihood of child abuse, such as substance abuse, financial issues, or history of domestic violence. However, some risk factors might not be as obvious. Research shows there are certain caregiver or environmental characteristics that can lead to a greater risk of child abuse.

  • Stress: Whether stress stems from long days at work, loss of income, health issues, death, relocation, divorce or other issue, it plays a big role in child abuse. Stress heightens conflict in the family and increases tension. Without coping skills or similar resources for support, family members may take out their stress on one another.
  • Mental illness: People who are suffering from a mental illness, such as depression or bipolar disorder, can act out, become distant or withdraw from their children without knowing why. They might have a hard time taking care of themselves, thereby making caring for children much more difficult.
  • Age: Many young parents don’t realize how much time and effort truly goes in to taking care of a child until they have one of their own. These parents may become angry with their children because of what they had to give up to care for them.
  • Community violence: When someone is repeatedly exposed to violence, they are more likely to mimic that behavior. Whether the caregiver grew up in a violent household or witnessed violence on the streets, a vicious cycle can begin.

Early Interventions Lead to Healthier, Happier Families

Mother of four, Nakeicha Dawson, knew that her family was in trouble. With the children constantly fighting, it was hard to find a sense of stability within their family. When a therapist from the Youth Crisis Center visited her children’s school, Nakeicha realized that this was the help she had been hoping for. After attending a few counseling sessions with a therapist from YCC’s Family Link Program, her daughter Jaryonne’s attitude began to change for the better. In addition to Family Link, Nakeicha, Jaryonne, and other children in the family participated in YCC’s SNAP (Stop Now and Plan) program, through which they learned conflict-prevention techniques as a family. This drastically decreased their fighting. The household calmed down tremendously to help build a better family atmosphere.

SNAP is for boys and girls ages 6-11. This 13-week program teaches children with behavioral issues, and their parents, how to effectively manage their emotions and reduce the chance of conflict. “Until you’ve done everything possible to help your child, you’re not helping the situation,” said Nakeisha to parents who are considering participation in YCC’s programs. “No risk, no reward. Taking that first step can change your life forever.” Both Family Link and SNAP programs are free resources offered by YCC to help positively transform your family dynamics.

Do you have a child between the ages of 6-17 experiencing issues that disrupt the health and stability of the family? YCC’s Family Link program provides short-term, outpatient counseling services to families at no cost. These services are available to residents of Baker, Clay, Duval, St. Johns and Nassau counties through appointments at the child’s school or other community locations. Click to learn more about Family Link and the 5 Ways to Strengthen Your Family.

Download our FREE ebook!

“ 5 Ways to Strengthen Your Family”