Don’t let the stress of the season overwhelm your child or teenager.

In anticipation of the most wonderful time of the year, expectations associated with school or sports and over-packed schedules may overwhelm many kids.

“Holidays offer a lot of fun activities, but for older youth, December also brings exams and more school work as the semester comes to a close,” says Suzanne Thompson, PhD, pediatric psychologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Families may be traveling, and the change of routine may affect some kids more than others.”

And while a little excitement and stress is totally normal, chronic anxiety may be dangerous to a child’s emotional and physical well-being.

Warning Signs
If you notice your child seems depressed or irritable, is experiencing insomnia, eating less or more than usual, or performing poorly in school, she may be experiencing chronic anxiety challenges that should be addressed.

“Stressing out is a common reaction to certain situations, such as feeling pressure to meet an important goal,” Dr. Thompson says. “But when worries and anxious feelings happen often and for a long time, kids may feel out of control and inconsolable, which is cause for concern.”

When teens experience chronic anxiety or other emotional issues, such as depression, they may be more likely to turn to alcohol and drugs or engage in other unhealthy behaviors.

Finding Solutions
You can be a powerful partner in helping your kids manage anxiety that may occur during the holidays and throughout the year.

“Set limits so kids are not overscheduled, prioritize healthy eating and sleeping habits, and check to see if your kids need to cut back on the use of technology,” Dr. Thompson says. “But if anxiety problems continue to be more intense and upsetting, talk with a primary care physician about treatment options. We offer many resources at St. Louis Children’s Hospital that will have lifelong benefits for you and your child.”

Call our 314.454.TEEN (8336) hotline to connect with resources that address adolescent development and behavioral topics.

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Expert Advice