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January 19, 2021

Understanding Emotions of Kids, Teens and Helping Them Cope

Maaliea Wilbur

TherapyWorks

Being a kid or teen is hard. It’s even harder in 2020. Kids are resilient, but they also have emotions just like adults. They get anxious, stressed, sad, angry and depressed. It is one of our goals at TherapyWorks to provide resources and support to our community, young and old.

Did you know that nearly 1 in 7 kids and teens has a mental health condition, and half go untreated? So what can you do to help your child or teen understand and manage their emotions?

Understand the signs

First, it’s important to understand the signs of anxiety and depression in kids and teens.

While it’s normal for children and teens to be in bad moods or feel down from time to time, if those negative feelings won’t go away and limit the ability to function normally, it could be depression.

Depression can be hard to see because depression in children and teens appears somewhat different from how it looks in adults. Children who are diagnosed with clinical depression have a combination of symptoms from the following list:

  • Feeling sad, crying
  • Isolating oneself from others
  • Anger, irritability, hostility
  • Fatigue, low energy
  • Feeling sick much of the time; headaches and stomachaches
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Excessive school absences
  • Running away from home
  • Suicidal thoughts

How can you help?

Just like adults need resources and tools that help reduce stress, anxiety and sadness, so do kids and teens. There are a lot of coping tools out there. The important thing is to find what works best for your child. Here are some ideas to consider.

Set goals

It’s never too early to help your child learn to set and achieve goals. Set daily, weekly and monthly goals with their common triggers and stressors in mind.

Find the right coping skills

Not every coping method will work for every child. Test different ideas until you find what works best for your child. Some things to try include: using a stress ball, exercise, journaling, deep breathing, meditation or talking to a therapist or counselor.

Try a grounding exercise

This simple exercise can be so helpful in stressful or high-anxiety moments. Stop, look around you and find:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can touch
  • 3 things you can hear
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste

Deep breathing

Take a slow breath in through your nose, hold it for a couple of seconds, and then exhale and repeat. You can do this while standing, sitting, or laying down.

Muscle relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation can help you get through stressful situations. Start by tensing your muscle groups one at a time. Then, release the tension of these muscle groups one at a time. Pay attention to each individual muscle as you tense and relax it.

Should You Get Outside Help?

If your child’s irritability or bad mood linger for weeks at a time, it’s a good idea to reach out to your doctor or schedule time with a therapist. Depression and anxiety can and do get better. But without help, it can last or get worse. A therapist can evaluate your child or teen and recommend the best treatment for them.

There is no denying that parents and children are facing extra challenges right now. We want you to know that you don’t have to do it alone. Reach out to friends, family, or seek professional help. You can text WECARE to 474747 to connect with a therapist.

Maaliea Wilbur is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Executive Director of TherapyWorks. With 10-plus years of experience, Maaliea’s broad-level expertise allows her to successfully support kids, teens, adults, couples and families. For information visit mytherapyworks.com.

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