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bu s iNe s s
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Fendalton - Ilam
Youth mental health hot topic
j E N afo R
R o l l i NS
urrent Canterbury youth mental health statistics have the Labour party swinging into action stating they will invest millions into providing much needed services and support for Cantabrian children and teens in the aftermath of the earthquakes.
• Chronic or traumatic stress includes children living in environmental situations including, school, home, weather or geographic conditions, peer pressure, relationships, their future, monetary or social conditions such as neglect, abuse, or maltreatment. Chronic stress not only feels bad, but leads to poor immune system functioning, creating vulnerability to Since 2011 there had been a 73 per cent increase in children stress-related health conditions, mental health disorders and and young people seeking mental health services in Canterbury. school underachievement. Principals from across the city have been dealing with children with extreme trauma, anxiety and suicidal intent. Their stories are distressing stories.
What children and teens are anxious and stressed about
“Funding hasn’t kept pace with what’s required down here. Young kids can stress about normal developmental fears such We’ve been trying to raise the profile of Canterbury’s health issues within Parliament for quite some time.” Ardeen stated in as strangers, new places, animals, or changes in their family or routine. Unpredictable events such as the loss of pet or family a recent trip to Christchurch. member. Older kids and teens can stress about appearance, peer status, social and romantic relationships, academic performance and college acceptance. Anxiety and stress are often used interchangeably. Both are reactions involving thoughts, emotions, and physiological responses such as a change in heart rate. Anxiety can be defined Emotionally, children of all ages may show an increased as the anticipation of a perceived threat. Stress is the natural sense of fragility in their feelings. Vulnerable and negative human response to resilience, which is defined as sustaining a emotions may be closer to the surface like increased sensitivity, healthy function despite negative experiences and setbacks. impatience, anger or crying. Behaviourally, there may be a
Defining stress, anxiety and resilience
How to know if your child is stressed?
Types of stress
• Experiencing anxiety and stress over new experiences is normal and expected. For children, this might include staying with a babysitter for the first time, giving a speech in class or taking a driver’s license test. This kind of stress can be perceived as ushering new development and skills, and sometimes is referred to as “positive stress.”
of stress are temporary and manageable. 5. Reassure your child that you will support and help them through this time. 6. Let your child know they are not alone in their experience. Other children have similar feelings and experiences. Share your own experiences and how you manage and overcame them. 7. Seek professional assistance if anxious behaviours are ongoing or your child complains of ongoing distress. Anxious behaviours should not interfere with the daily functioning of a child or family. 8. Model positive stress management – children are astute observers and take their cues from their parents.
Decreasing stress in everyday life • Have regular conversations with your children to keep your pulse on their emotional lives. More effortful leading questions, such as “What did you like about XYZ?” communicates more parental interest and investment more than the routine “How was your day?”
• Facilitate adequate sleep and sleep habits: 8 to 10 hours a night recommended for teenagers, 9 to 11 hours for school-aged display of new, unproductive or repetitive behaviours. As young children, and 10-13 hours for pre-schoolers. children are less verbal they may show direct symptoms. Older • Family meals minus electronics communicates people and children and teens may be more subtle or secretive in their quality conversation are important. behaviours. Verbally, children and teens may talk about feeling • Research also supports meaningful family meals are overwhelmed or helpless. They may seek validation or become beneficial in child development, promotes prosocial behaviours, conflictual about the primary or a related topic. school success skills, good eating habits, well-being, and helps children avoid later negative and high-risk behaviours.
What to do?
• Complicated stress, such as the loss of a best friend, death 1. Observe and monitor your child’s behaviour. of a grandparent or a divorce are more challenging experiences 2. Acknowledge your child’s anxious or stressed feelings in a in the short and long-term, carry a mixture of deeper emotions. calm and sensitive manner during a neutral time. Most children can adjust to situation development with 3. Ask open-ended questions to gain information, and keep appropriate, consistent and nurturing adult support. Mindset or the lines of communication open. how one perceives and understands the meaning of stressors is 4. Reassure your child that their anxious feelings and source helpful in managing a response toward being resilient.
• Prioritize extracurricular activities based on the child’s enjoyment, interest, and skill development, not competition, parental motivation or “everybody’s doing it.” • Provide family leisure time for togetherness and rejuvenation. • Provide your child with developmentally appropriate “alonetime” to learn to self-manage, self-entertain, and self-soothe - all skills important in managing stress.