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Boiling point: Talking to children about stress

Stress head. Worrier. Nervous wreck. A mess... There are a lot of unhelpful names thrown at people that struggle to cope with stress, especially where children are concerned. But stress doesn’t have to be an issue. In fact, when managed right young people can use it as a way to develop emotional resilience and handle difficult situations better later in life.


Young people learning to deal with stress

Boy sits at school desk with eyes closed and hands to face

Why do children stress?

If we tried to list every reason why a child gets stressed, we would be here all day. From school deadlines, to bullying, to making sure they are up on the latest trend. The point is, everyone is different and therefore the reasons to get stressed are too. 

Stress is a normal part of life. But sometimes it can get the better of us. When that happens, it is important young people know they have somewhere or someone to turn to.

Coping with anxiety

You might find it hard if you can't help them change the situation that is causing them stress. But there are still lots of practical things you can do to help. 

Recognising the signs 

It isn’t always obvious when a child is feeling stressed. They might be trying to hide it, or not even know they are going through it themselves. Look out for any changes in behaviour, such as problems sleeping, a change in eating habit, stomach aches or being more irritable. 

If you notice this, you could let them know and ask how you can help. But remember, everyone responds to this differently, so be ready for anything. Even if you get a negative response, as long as you are understanding and gentle you have now let them know they can approach you when they feel comfortable. 

Showing a more vulnerable side can help. Being open about your own stress can help strike up a conversation. Most people, children included, are worried they are the only one that behaves or feels a certain way when they are stressed. 

teenagers in the park

Mental health and wellbeing A‑Z

Our mental health resources are co-designed by young people and mental health professionals. They help make sense of issues that are more common than you might think.

Lending an ear 

You don’t always have to have the solutions. Just like adults, young people want to be heard. Letting them talk through how they are feeling could be all they need to get to the bottom of these overwhelming feelings.  

Regardless of your initial reactions, make sure you don’t seem judgmental. We all react and deal with things differently. Your thought process might be vastly different when responding to a problem, but that doesn’t make it right or wrong. 

Activities to help clear the mind for young people

Blood pumping 

A lot of young people might not feel ready to talk about stressful situations. It could even be triggering. If talking isn’t getting you anywhere, it is important you let young people know that there are other constructive ways to deal with their emotions. 

Exercise is often described as a medicine. It can be as simple as going for a walk or playing football at the local park. Physical activity has the ability to improve our mental health and wellbeing. It can take our mind off things replace it with another focus.  

Girl stretches before her run in the park

Physical activity to deal with stress

The break these activities bring can give a young person the time to process their emotions or come back to them with fresh eyes. 

Apps to help with stress 

Mobile phones are synonymous with children today. And while they can be associated with causing stress, there are also some nifty apps designed to help. When young people don’t want to open up, or are looking for techniques to help them calm down these might help. 

  • Breathe2Relax: portable stress management tool 

  • Calm: guided meditations and sleep stories to ease stress and improve sleep 

  • Headspace: train your mind for a healthier, happier life by reducing daily anxieties and stresses 

Author: Edward Herbert