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Publication #FAR0007

Managing Childhood Stress1

Melanie Bean and Suzanna Smith2

As a parent, perhaps you've heard, "You don't know what it's like to be a kid these days!" Unfortunately, they're probably right. Many children today face stressors and experience traumas that are different from those endured by their parents' generation. Today's children are pushed to make above-average grades and excel in extracurricular activities and athletics. Additionally, they endure exposure to their parents' stresses in the home, as well as school violence and terrorism.

Most theorists agree that the responses children have to stressful situations are an innate reaction; however, the susceptibility to stress-related behaviors in children can be linked to several factors, such as environment, genetics, modeling stressful behavior after anxious parents, or through rewards or punishments for displaying anxious behaviors.

How do you know if your child or teen is experiencing stress? Dr. Suzanna Smith from the University of Florida explains that the signs of stress may include children expressing that they feel afraid, or their grades may drop suddenly. Perhaps they are extra-clingy or needy; they may go back to behaviors they've outgrown, such as bedwetting or thumb sucking, and they may withdraw from others.

There are many actions parents can take to assist their children with managing stress. For example, spend time together. Follow daily family routines and work together. Children thrive on predictable patterns. You may find that helping children manage their stress can be good for the grown-ups too!

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website at

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This document is FAR0007, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 065 and published December 2007. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Melanie Bean, undergraduate student, and Suzanna Smith, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, University of Florida, and executive producer, Family Album Radio,UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.