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Ways For You and Your Child to De-Stress

— U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Updated on Apr 29, 2011

Stress is a natural part of life, but too much of it can be harmful. How much stress are you experiencing? Stress in the family, even if not directly related to the child, can make a child feel stressed as well. How much direct stress is your child experiencing? Does he feel as if he has too much homework to handle? Is there a big event coming up, such as a move, that may be worrying him?

What To Know

What can cause stress? It could be a prolonged or intensely difficult situation. Stressors can alter the ability to cope with pressure. Your child may be feeling stressed because of any of the following:

  • Changes in her body
  • Changes in her self-confidence
  • Friendship issues
  • Death of a loved one
  • Home situation
  • Over-booked schedule
  • Moving to a new school or house
  • Schoolwork

These are examples of stressors from negative situations. Stress also can be triggered from situations that cause excitement or anticipation. Positive stress can come from trying out for a school play or sports team, preparing to give a speech, or starting a new hobby or activity.

How do you know when stress has your child in overload? People react to stress in different ways. The symptoms can be emotional, physical, or both. Your child may be irritable, moody, impatient, or prone to emotional outbursts. The slightest occurrence can cause him to break down into tears. Perhaps he's experiencing stomach pains, headaches, chest pains, insomnia, or a change in eating habits.

What To Do

How do you help your child reduce stress? The following suggestions may help reduce overwhelming stress, both for you and your child:

  • Breathing exercises/meditation—Cut down on feelings of anxiety by taking a few minutes to slow down and calm down. Inhale through the nose for five counts and exhale through the mouth for five counts.
  • Write in a journal—Let your feelings out on paper; this can help you organize thoughts and work through a situation or problem.
  • Talk to a friend or family member—Try not to cope by yourself. Friends and family are there to help, and getting a few words of support or guidance can make a world of difference.
  • Exercise—Physical activity is a great stress reliever. It benefits the body and mind at the same time.
  • Cut down on activities—Know your limitations. It is better to tell someone "no" than to overbook your schedule and get stressed.
  • Pick a hobby—Take time out to do something enjoyable. This can help you relax and refuel.
  • Get enough rest, but don't oversleep—Adults need between 6 and 10 hours of sleep per night; children need 11 to 12 hours per night. If you or your child are sleeping too much, it may be a sign of health problems. Consult your family doctor.

Now that you know a few methods for helping your child reduce stress, she can work through tense situations more easily. As soon as you begin to recognize the symptoms of stress, remember to help her use techniques that work for her. If your child continues to feel stress and anxiety, consider speaking to a school counselor or your family doctor for further help.

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