Is My Child Overstressed?

Last week my blog was on StressProofing Our Kids and Families. This week I want to suggest you take Dr. Arch Hart’s excellent little test to measure the stress in your kid’s lives. It’s called “Is My Child Overstressed?” It’s quick and easy to take and often reveals some really good insight to the pace of your life.

Child’s name _______________________________________________

Carefully review your child’s behavior and complaints for the previous two or three weeks and rate the following questions using this scale:

0 = My child infrequently feels or experiences this.

1 = My child sometimes (perhaps once a month) experiences this.

2 = My child experiences this often (between once a month and once a week).

3 = My child experiences this frequently (more than once a week).

_____ 1. My child complains of headaches, backaches or general muscle pains or stiffness.

_____ 2. My child reports stomach pains, digestive problems, cramps or diarrhea.

_____ 3. My child has cold hands or feet, sweaty palms or increased perspiration.

_____ 4. My child has a shaky voice, trembles and shakes, displays nervous tics or grinds and clenches his or her teeth.

_____ 5. My child gets sores in the mouth, skin rashes or low-grade infections like the flu.

_____ 6. My child reports irregular heartbeats, skipped beats, thumping in the chest or a racing heart.

_____ 7. My child is restless or unstable and feels blue, or low.

_____ 8. My child is angry and defiant and wants to break things.

_____ 9. My child has crying spells, and I have difficulty stopping them.

_____ 10. My child overeats, especially sweet things.

_____ 11. My child seems to have difficulty in concentrating on homework assignments.

_____ 12. My child reacts intensely (with angry shouting) whenever he or she is frustrated.

_____ 13. My child complains of a lot of pain in many places on the body.

_____ 14. My child seems anxious, fidgety and restless, and he or she tends to worry a lot.

_____ 15. My child has little energy and has difficulty getting started on a project.

Total: ______


Test Interpretation

0–5    Your child is remarkably low in stress or handles stressful situations extremely well.

6–12    Your child is showing minor signs of stress. While it is nothing to be concerned about, some attention to stress control may be warranted.

13–20    Your child is beginning to show signs of moderate stress. Some attention should be given to how your child copes with stress.

21–30    Your child is showing significant signs of stress. You should give urgent attention to helping him or her reduce stress levels.

Over 30    Your child appears to be experiencing very high stress levels. You should do everything possible to eliminate stressful situations until your child can learn to cope. You may want to consider getting professional help.

Note: You may want to go over the test items that have been answered with a rating of 2 or above to better understand the signs of stress in your child’s life. See where you can provide relief and help your child build more resistance to stress. If you feel that your child’s problems—no matter what his or her score on this test—are beyond your ability to handle, then seek professional help immediately.

After you have taken the test, you’ll want to make sure that you remember the common physical and emotional symptoms of stress in your child. Sometimes it’s difficult to discern what is normal child or adolescent behavior and what has its roots in stress-related disease. If you see symptoms in your own children or are confused about them, then I would strongly suggest that you seek the help of a counselor or pastor. The Bible is clear: “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14, NKJV).

The key physical symptoms to look for are headaches, dizziness or lightheadedness, heartburn, stomach problems, generalized body pain, grinding of teeth, skin eruptions, frequent infections or minor illnesses, sleeplessness and loss of appetite—to name a few. The emotional symptoms are sometimes more difficult to determine, but they include anxiety and panic reactions, depression, general lethargy, outbursts of anger and irritability.

If you see stress as a problem in your home, then it’s time to reexamine your family’s lifestyle in order to help your children succeed. Start with the basics: getting adequate sleep, keeping physically fit, providing plenty of room in your schedule for relaxation and making sure that you don’t overcommit. If you try these basic—but not necessarily easy—steps and things are still not improving, then it’s time to get a professional involved before more problems arise that will carry on into your child’s adulthood.

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Jim Burns

Jim Burns is the president of HomeWord. He speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has close to 2 million resources in print in 20 languages. He primarily writes and speaks on the values of HomeWord, which are: Strong Marriages, Confident Parents, Empowered Kids, and Healthy Leaders. Some of his most popular books are: Confident Parenting, The Purity Code, Creating an Intimate Marriage, Closer, and Doing Life with Your Adult Children. Jim and his wife, Cathy, live in Southern California and have three grown daughters, Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi; three sons-in-law, Steve and Matt, and Andy; and three grandchildren, James, Charlotte and Huxley.

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