Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but that certainly doesn't mean it passes by unnoticed. Though some stressors dissolve in the moment, and can even be a part of otherwise positive moments, others last longer and can have a far more significant impact. This is true for both adults and children. People living with ASD may be prone to more frequent episodes of stress and anxiety, but learning to identify signs that your child is feeling stressed can help you to find their stress triggers, offer reprieve, and instill important coping skills through practice.
World Mental Health Day, which takes place this October 10th, is a wonderful reminder of just how big a role mental health plays in our lives and the lives of our children. It's a great time to really check in with them, watch their day-to-day behavior a bit more closely, and demonstrate empathy and listening skills by example -- all things that will make you both feel good. This can help you to identify areas of your child's life that may be causing them stress.
Signs a Child is Stressed
When a child actively exhibits signs of stress, it is typically causes by stressors referred to as either "tolerable" or "toxic". Tolerable stresses are impactful, but not out of the ordinary -- the passing of a family member, or a small fire in the home, for example. Toxic stress is associated with dangerous, abusive, and neglectful situations, and must be handled immediately to prevent serious negative long-term impact.
If your child is experiencing changes in behavior, mood, eating habits, sleeping habits, grades, or level of participation, they may be feeling stressed. Unexplained pain and substance abuse are also linked, and regressive behavior is common in younger children.
How to Intervene
Helping your stressed-out child cope with their emotions has a lot to do with simply being present in their day-to-day. Observe their behavior, and figure out what causes them stress. Help them to avoid triggers where possible, and instill coping skills through the sharing of feelings and ideas. Provide them with plenty of love, reassurance, and stability, and make the concept of "feelings" an ongoing and comfortable dialogue in your home. Knowing they have the constant support of parents goes a long way in helping our kids cope with tough feelings.