Stressed-Out Kids

by | May 31, 2003 | Parenting

Today, American children are exposed to distress at earlier ages than in the past.
When I was asked by a national radio show to talk about how to help children cope with war, I felt the interview would be simply an extended version of my everyday conversations. Living in a military town, we knew many people who had been deployed. This war was personal. Samantha’s dad, Jimmy’s brother, Karla’s uncle, Debra’s son and others known by name were in the fight.


Hopefully, I was able to offer the listeners of that show a number of helpful suggestions. But when the interview ended, I hung up the phone and began to think about all the topics I’d been asked to discuss on radio and television in the last five years–teen violence, bullies, eating disorders, AIDS, HIV, date rape, terrorism and now war, to name only a few. And I began to compare the stresses kids have today to those of my own youth. Yes, I had anxieties and even experienced the Vietnam War, but I never lived my days worried about my safety.


Today, American children are exposed to distress at much earlier ages. Because of technology and the media, visual images of disaster, war and criminal activity can be seen daily in households. Parents have to discuss what to do in case of a school shooting, how to handle a bully that may come after you with a weapon, and what to do if your friend becomes suicidal or is slowly killing herself with an eating disorder.


Children and teens are growing up in stressful times, and they worry. They may lose sleep, complain of headaches or stomachaches, become irritable, withdraw and want to stay home, have changes in appetite or even fear going to school. They need our help to deal with the stresses of our day.


The way you help depends on their developmental age. Preschoolers are typically unaware of the violence in the world. They should be sheltered from news reports that describe it because they can’t make sense of them.


Younger children need reassurance–not reassurance that everything will be fine, but reassurance that you, as a parent, are doing everything you can to protect them. Remember, younger kids often confuse reality with fantasy and may ask outlandish questions such as, “Is that plane going to bomb our house?”


Older children need a chance to share their feelings about world events. Allow them to talk about their views and insecurities, again providing reassurance. These are teachable moments in which you propose faith and values as responses to stress and anxiety. Talk about the bad actions of people versus bad people. Explain how our choices impact others.


Teens often will take a position on war and terrorism. Their position may not be the same as yours, but help them to think critically. Integrate biblical principles into the discussion.


For example, you could open up a discussion about President Bush’s decision to go after Saddam Hussein with the question: “If there were a bully in your school who pushed and shoved you on a regular basis, what would you do? Would you turn the other cheek as Jesus suggests in Matthew, or would you defend yourself and put a stop to the behavior as David did when he fought Goliath?”


Let your teen struggle with that question. Search the Scriptures for answers. Talk about the importance of seeking the mind of Christ and being led by His Spirit.


Carry on routines. Find time to play and relax together. Allow children to share their worries regularly. Come together as a family. Children feel secure when they are with people they love and trust.


For children of all ages, limit their exposure to violent images. We know from several studies that watching violence creates anxiety and aggression in children. It also creates fear.


And of course, the most important thing you can do is pray with and for your children. Memorize Scripture. This activity provides material for discussion at the same time that it places the Word of God in our hearts.


Also, encourage your children to pray for those who are defending our freedom and for innocent people who are victims. Remind them that God is always in control and that He will help us in times of trouble when we call upon Him (see Ps. 91:15).


Linda S. Mintle, Ph.D., is a Virginia-based licensed clinical social worker and author of the new Breaking Free book series (Charisma House), available at www.charismahouse.com. She invites your questions about the tough issues of life at www.drlindahelps.com.

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

Charisma Highlights: Is Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer in Heaven?

Charisma Highlights: Is Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer in Heaven?

Following are snippets of the top stories posted on charismamag.com over the past week. We encourage you to visit the links to read the stories in full. Is Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer in Heaven? Is it possible that behind the pearly gates of heaven there are...

10 Ways to Practice Gratitude With Your family This Thanksgiving

10 Ways to Practice Gratitude With Your family This Thanksgiving

This month we are entering a season which, in the United States, has been devoted to gratitude and thanksgiving for 400 years! While the Thanksgiving holiday has had a long and varied history within the United States, the practice of devoting sacrificial offerings,...

Don’t Let Ungratefulness Turn You Into a Spoiled American

Don’t Let Ungratefulness Turn You Into a Spoiled American

My frequent trips to developing nations always help me adjust my attitude. Just when I start to feel spoiled and entitled, I meet people from places like Congo, India and Honduras—and I realize just how blessed I am. This happened to me again last week during a trip...

The Power of Being Thankful

The Power of Being Thankful

One of the best ways to show God we love Him is to be thankful. When we express our deep gratitude to Him, it actually invites His presence onto our lives. Being thankful also neutralizes the enemy and brings victory into our situations no matter what the outcome....

Get Off Your Pew!

Get Off Your Pew!

As God’s clock inches closer to the final hour before His return, many people find themselves filled with angst, anxiety and despair. People are not sleeping well, many have fallen into depression and are feeling hopeless. These are the very days that we have been...

The Great Commission Can Set Us Free from Responsibility

The Great Commission Can Set Us Free from Responsibility

Read Time: 4 Minutes 28 Seconds While all of the stories we read in the Torah are meaningful, sometimes the events we read about can seem to hold more relevance, especially for those of us who are followers of Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah. One such event is the calling...

RECENT ARTICLES

The Church’s Role in Preserving Freedom of Speech in America

Read Time: 3 Minutes 17 Seconds The controversy surrounding Kyrie Irving and his post of a tweet that claims the Jews in Israel are not the real Jews—that Black Africans are the real Jews—raises...
Count Your Blessings, For God Indeed is Good

Count Your Blessings, For God Indeed is Good

Read Time: 4 Minutes 42 Seconds Thanksgiving Day is just a few days away for U.S. Americans. It is a favorite holiday—perhaps only exceeded by Christmas—to gather with family and friends to watch parades, play (American) “football” and eat delicious food—often from...

Is Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer in Heaven?

Is Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer in Heaven?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFbfS03JkKY&t=1s Read Time: 3 Minutes, 10 Seconds Is it possible that behind the pearly gates of heaven there are murderers, pedophiles and cannibals walking along the streets of gold? We are taught in the book of Romans, "That if...

Pin It on Pinterest