Stress is a subjective sensation associated with varied symptoms that differ for each of us.
Stress is not always a synonym for distress.
Stress increases productivity up to a point, after which things rapidly deteriorate.
Mental and physical health are aspects of functioning that are most strongly influenced by exposure to stress.
Causes of Stress in Children
Sources of Stress by Age
Infancy and early childhood: Stressors come from the environment
School age: In addition to environmental stressors, sources of stress also include school, peers, and neighborhood variables. Stressors can impact a child’s sense of security, dignity and honor, or sense of self-worth. A stress that is becoming more prominent for school-age children is the pressure related to high stakes testing and overbooked extracurricular schedules.
Early adolescence: Developmental milestones such as puberty, school level transitions, and peer relationships become primary sources of stress.
Late adolescence: Children are required to transition from dependence on the family to reliance on oneself and one’s friends. With independence come financial and social stressors related to higher education, career, building a family, and family relationships. (Copeland, 2004)
Grant, Compas, Thurm, McMahon, & Ey, (2000)
Found that psychosocial stress is a significant and pervasive risk factor for psychopathology in childhood and adolescence.
The ways in which children and adolescents cope with stress are potentially important mediators and moderators of the impact of stress on current and future adjustment and psychopathology.
Kaplan, Liu, Kaplan (2005)
Found a negative relationship between student perceived school-related stress and academic performance.
University of Washington (2008)
Found that a single exposure to uncontrollable stress impairs decision making in rats for several days.
Symptoms of Stress in Children
Irritability or unusual emotionality or volatility.
Sleep difficulty or nightmares.
Inability to concentrate.
Drop in grades or other functioning.
Toileting or eating concerns.
Headaches or stomachaches.
Unexplained fears or increased anxiety (that also can take the form of clinging).
Regression to earlier developmental levels.
Isolation from family activities or peer relationships.
Drug or alcohol experimentation.
Lazarus and Folkman (1984) defined coping as "constantly changing cognitive and behavioral efforts to manage specific external and/or internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person" (p. 141).
Voluntary vs Involuntary Response
Temperament, Reactivity and Self-Regulation
Subtypes of Coping
(Compass et al., 2001)
Building Resilience to Stress
decreasing sources of stress in school environments
increasing the coping skills of all students
helping the individual change the source of stress, or teaching specific coping skills to help the child adapt to a situation that cannot be changed
School Psychologist’s Role
Be familiar with with common stressors in your district
Culture of Classrooms, School & Community
Reinforce the importance of clear, consistent, and reasonable expectations
Teach problem-solving & coping skills
Introduce stress prevention and reduction strategies
Educate administration and faculty on mental health issues for students and staff (Hess, 2006)
Problem Solving & Coping Skills
Allow student to express difficulties
use their experiences as a lesson guide
Teach problem solving & coping skills by modeling
Use cognitive restructuring & coping statements
Provide scenarios for students to practice learned skills
Provide students with practical skills such as prioritizing, organizing, and self-advocating
A good resource for finding new and effective mental health programs is www.promisingpractices.net
Stress Prevention & Reduction Techniques
Take a break from stressful situations
Activities like listening to music, exercising, talking to a friend, drawing, writing, or spending time with a pet can reduce stress