Hello again! It’s hard to believe that summer is quickly coming to a close and the kids are headed back to school. As part of our commitment to healthy Scouts, I think this would be a good time to take a look at how we can keep an eye out for symptoms of stress as our young people work their way back into their school routine.
I’m happy to welcome Dr. Carla-Krystin (ck) Andrade as a guest blogger on this topic. Dr. Andrade is a volunteer Scouter in the Pacific Skyline Council/Discovery District and a member of the BSA Emotional Fitness Task Force. She teaches youth in Scouting and the community how to deal with stress. Click through to read her advice on recognizing and helping youth cope with stress.
Back to school – Back to stress? How to help youth succeed
Going back to school in the fall can be exciting. At the same time, it can also come with many demands for which youth may not be prepared such as homework, new peer groups, or the changing expectations of being in a new grade. When youth think that situations are overwhelming or difficult to cope with, they experience negative or chronic stress that can lead to mental, physical, emotional, and behavioral concerns. Stress is a big problem among youth; more than 51 percent of youth in America say that stress is their number one problem (Centers for Disease Control). That means that at any point in time, more than half of the youth in your Scout unit, youth group or classroom may be dealing with levels of stress that they find difficult to handle. Fortunately, you can help by understanding what to look for and what you can do to help.
What to look for
There are many warning signs that youth are experiencing chronic stress but often we, and sometimes the youth themselves, are just too busy to notice them. The symptoms of chronic stress are many and varied: from restlessness, insomnia and racing thoughts at one end of the spectrum to withdrawal, lethargy and depression at the other. Other possible signs of stress are mood swings, changes in sleep or eating habits, anger, hopelessness, frequent physical illnesses, or saying negative things about themselves or others. Be on the lookout for negative changes in behavior, whether they are gradual changes or dramatic. For example, the teen who is usually responsible, optimistic, and cooperative who becomes moody, withdrawn, and disorganized may be experiencing high stress levels.
What you can do
Fortunately, the signs of stress, while sometimes alarming, are reversible if we catch them in time. Here are a few steps that you can take if you spot signs of chronic stress in young people.
Talk to the parents or guardians:
- Tell them what you have observed since they may not be seeing this behavior at home.
- Show them this article and suggest that they take the time to watch and listen to their son or daughter.
- Suggest that they consider consulting a health care professional to determine how serious the problem is.
Talk to the stressed youth and suggest any of the following;
- Talk to a family member or trusted adult.
- Connect with others to get support — in person, text, phone, email, IM, online groups, or snail mail.
- Vent their feelings in a positive way such as physical activity, journaling, screaming without making a sound, or pounding pillows.
- Call 2-1-1 and ask for help contacting a local helpline.
- Search online for ‘crisis center’ or ‘distress line.’
Want to learn more?
The BSA has resources on how to help youth cope with stress and improve their life effectiveness on the ScoutStrong Mentally Awake website.
Yours in Scouting,
Dr. Carla-Krystin (ck) Andrade
Thank you, Dr. Andrade, for your terrific counsel and the work you do with our Scouts. I’d like others to weigh in on how they help manage stress among the young people they work with every day. I’m sure following these tips will be a big help!