If a child is not sleeping or eating well, irritable or anxious, these could be early signs of mental health challenges ahead. “Teaching children about stress and how to manage the stress response is an important way of developing emotional intelligence, building resilience, and preventing future physical and mental health problems,” said Dr. Michele Nealon, Psy.D., President of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
“Too many children experience daily stress related to pressures at school, problems with friends, separation or divorce of parents, personal illness or that of a family member, changes in their bodies, difficulty balancing school and extracurricular responsibilities, and more. There are also residual stressors from having lived through a pandemic that we know have had a very serious impact on children’s development. And sadly, too many children live with serious chronic stress as a result of poverty, food insecurity, homelessness and violence,” she added.
Dr. Nealon, a clinical psychologist and mother of two, has just written an illustrated book for primary school children, “The Amazing Four’s Very Stressful Day,” in which four friends come together to learn about stress and how to manage it. Available now at Barnes and Noble, Dr. Nealon's book taps into her wealth of knowledge and experience about stress management to give parents and caregivers a tool to help children develop stress management skills. This book is the first in a series to educate adults and children about mental health wellbeing.
“Even in young children, prolonged stress can trigger a cycle of emotion-regulation challenges, which can turn into anxiety, depression and behavior problems,” she said. "Parents and caregivers play a crucial part in helping children develop effective coping mechanisms. Through early identification and the creation of a supportive environment, adults can help children develop the skills needed for mental health wellbeing.”
Dr. Nealon recommends the following to help children understand and manage their own emotions and those of others:
1. Identify stress symptoms early. These can include emotional and physical signs such as withdrawing from people, slipping grades, or frequent headaches and stomach aches.
2. Practice coping skills, such as breathing, seeking support from others and positive thinking. These have immediate benefits and can also be used long-term for combat complex issues.
3. Strengthen the parent-child relationship. When parents understand and support their child’s stress management, it can foster trust, build resilience, and instill courage and confidence.
“The U.S. Surgeon General and the American Academy of Pediatrics have declared a national child mental health emergency” said Dr. Nealon, “By addressing stress early, we can mitigate circumstances that contribute to this emergency and begin the long, difficult road to turning the mental health crisis around.”
About The Chicago School of Professional Psychology:
Integrating theory with hands-on experience, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology provides education rooted in a commitment to innovation, service, and community for thousands of diverse students across the United States and globally. Founded in 1979, the nonprofit, regionally accredited university now features campuses in iconic locations across the country (Chicago, Southern California, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Dallas) and online. To spark positive change in the world where it matters most, The Chicago School has continued to expand its educational offerings beyond the field of psychology to offer more than 30 degrees and certificates in the professional fields of health services, education, counseling, business, and more. Through its engaged professional model of education, commitment to diversity and inclusion, and an extensive network of domestic and international professional partnerships, The Chicago School’s students receive real-world training opportunities that reflect their future careers. The Chicago School is proud to be a part of TCS Education System, a nonprofit, integrated system of colleges and universities that works collaboratively to advance student success and community impact. To learn more, visit www.thechicagoschool.edu.