“Kids get stressed too”
By Lyndi-Colleen Morgan
It is becoming more important to teach children coping skills to deal with stress, says a mental health educator at the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Jenny-Lee Almeida was the mental health educator for the final seminar in a three-part series hosted by the Greater Essex County District School Board and community partners. She spoke on the topic of stress in youth and children, discussing identifying stress in children, defining stress and teaching coping techniques for children, among other issues.
“Some of the leading causes of stress in children are going to be the same things you might find that stress adults out,” said Almeida. “Perhaps it is starting a new school or changing schools, relocating… increased conflict at home… bullying, feeling like they don’t belong at school.”
According to Don Crowder, a counsellor at St. Clair College, “stress has a full range of effects on people psychologically, emotionally and physically.” The reactions defining stress can be translated into a negative or a positive event depending on the individual. However, prolonged stress can be detrimental to the health of an individual.
Almeida said research shows 90 per cent of illnesses can be traced back to stress, with chronic stress altering brain development in children.
According to the Psychology Foundation of Canada, nine per cent of children aged eight to 12 say they have difficulty handling their stress, and 13 per cent of parents reporting an awareness of change in behaviour and their children’s sleep patterns. Over the past 30 years the rate of stress in children has increased 45 per cent.
Almeida said the roles of parents and teachers in identifying stress are important.
“Teachers see children on a day to day basis so if they see any changes like decreased participation, school grades, not getting along well with others… these are indicators and it is important that teachers start speaking with these students to provide that support,” said Almeida. “As parents the biggest thing we can do is spending time with our children and youth. Doing things together as a family and exercising.”
She also said seminars, such as those held by the GECDSB, are excellent free resources that parents and community members can use.
Tracey Rilett is the principal of A. V. Graham Public school and chair of the Mental Health Seminar Series committee. These seminars have been running for five years, providing resources and “tool boxes” for parents.
“We are really excited to be in our fifth year of presenting our mental health seminars. We really want to make a positive difference for our children and youth,” said Rilett. “With research showing that mental health issues affect one in five people, the Greater Essex County District School Board along with our community partners want to share information with families.”
The mental health seminars are held to let families know about the available resources in the community and within the schools.
Rilett hopes to continue these seminars with the support of the community and interest of parents.
“There are lots of resources,” said Bill Magone, a foster parent who has attended all of the seminars. “First off you learned things you didn’t know. Just talking to the people afterwards is really helpful.”
Magone said the strategies he learned to help his child at home to cope with stress are something he would not have learned otherwise. He also said these seminars provide information about a number of topics and he will continue to attend the seminars in the future.
“I like to learn about a number of topics,” said Magone. “Issues with our little guy are ADHD, temper… like tonight’s stress, these are great topics. I enjoy the training and I have learned so much.”
The final seminar in the three mental health seminar series concluded on March 29 at the Roma Club in Leamington.