Recognizing the signs of worry, stress or anxiety in “tweenhood” can be difficult or considered quite simply pre-teen behaviour.
My first-born exhibited signs of anxiety at the age of 6 when she was part of a holiday program in grade one. She complained of smelling things that were non-existent to both her dad and I. If I go back even further and consider her behaviour in infancy, she had difficulty falling asleep and she was petrified of males with dark hair that went beyond the normal “making strange” period.
My second born had a completely different symptoms of stress in his early childhood. He had night terrors, and screamed when I dropped him off at preschool. In later school years he struggled with hypochondria – believing he had the symptoms of particular diseases or illnesses.
I was personally affected by stress and anxiety as far back in childhood as I can remember, which resulted in painful shyness, didn’t eat (to the point where my parents thought I wasn’t thriving), had ideals of perfectionism and in the latter teen years, battled the onset of an eating disorder as well as panic disorder.
Getting information out of your tweens can be as difficult as extracting impacted wisdom teeth without anaesthetic – painful and fraught with screaming! Trying to figure out IF they are stressed and WHAT they are stressed about is even MORE difficult.
Here are a few signs that I have seen exhibited in tweens that are stressed:
- Changes in their eating habits – eating a LOT more or a LOT less
- Changes in their sleeping – not sleeping or sleeping all the time and refusing to participate in daily activities because they are sleeping
- Refusal to go to school or participate in extra-curricular activities
- Smoking, alcohol or substance abuse
- Drops in their grades
- Social isolation – doesn’t leave home
- Behavioural changes – anger, argumentative or crying
- Changes in long-standing friendships
- Headaches, stomach aches, vomiting, diarrhea (that can’t be attributed to physical illness)
It’s important to spend time really paying attention to your tween to get a baseline of their behaviours. Some of these “symptoms” can be quite subtle and it’s important as a parent to notice these subtleties.
What can you do to help out your tween?
- Stop talking and start actively listening to your tween – the car is a GREAT place to do so!
- Pay attention to your stress and anxiety. Kids “feel” us, hear us, observe us and model our sensitivities, worries and anxieties.
- Get help – find resources (your family doctor is a great place to start) to help with YOUR anxiety first and see if this stops your child’s worries, stress levels and anxieties. Your EAP program at work can help you find support as well.
- Try yoga and meditation for the entire family to get everyone’s stress, worry and anxiety levels manageable
- Disconnect from technology and start playing together as a family – remember how you all behaved/felt during your last family vacation?
- Over programming our tweens has become one of the biggest reasons our children feel stressed out. Make sure your extra curricular activities are manageable for your child. Every night does NOT have to be filled with activities.
- Know when to get help – if your tween’s stress, worry and anxiety is affecting his or her everyday life, then it is time to get outside help.
Feature image courtesy of marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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About Laurel Crossley
Laurel Crossley is a highly sought after speaker catering to topics on self-development, parenting and child development. She is a columnist for Together Magazine, a regular guest on the Gail Vaz-Oxlade Night Shift Radio Show and Rogers Daytime as well as recently being invited to participate as a regular Parenting Panelist on Canada AM. She has been interviewed for Chatelaine Magazine, Oh Baby Magazine, Today’s Parent, The Globe and Mail, and The Toronto Star. She hosted, and produced her own cable television series, MomU! which aired from 2009 – 2012.