Just like adults, children, and teenagers experience stress. Although stress is a normal part of life, we all deal with it differently. Your little one might find a specific situation/ life-event more (or less) stressful than other children.
Significant changes cause stress, including the birth of a new baby, death in the family, divorce, illness, or financial issues. Your child might also feel overwhelmed when they struggle with a particular subject or have a full schedule (balancing school, extracurricular activities, and social events). Add to that separation anxiety, conflict with friends, and pressure from parents, and you might find yourself with a very stressed-out child.
Signs and Symptoms
Stress can cause physical and emotional signs and symptoms in your child, including:
- An upset tummy
- Changes in eating habits (eating too much or not eating at all)
- Insomnia or nightmares
- Being scared
- Overreacting in certain situations
- Changes in mood (being clingy, sad, withdrawn or angry)
- Lack of motivation or concentration
How to help your stressed child
As a parent, your instinct is to help your child. You can try some of the things below to help your child cope, but if you are concerned about your child’s stress levels, the best advice is to seek professional help.
- Make them feel safe and loved by spending quality time together.
- Encourage them to talk about their day – what was the day’s highlight and what was the worst part of their day. Talking about their problems will help put things into perspective for them, and you could come up with some solutions together.
- When your child is talking to you about their day, focus only on them. Stay calm and supportive, and don’t judge the situation.
- Exercise is a great way to relieve stress, so get outdoors! Go for a walk or run, throw or kick a ball or ride a bike.
- Make sure your child gets enough sleep – sleep is one of the most important things for our physical and emotional well-being.
- Sandra Mills, Kids’ Minds Matter. Stress in Children: Signs, Symptoms and Strategies. Available at: https://kidsmindsmatter.com/stress-in-children-signs-symptoms-and-strategies/ (Accessed 2 February 2023)
- Scholastic Parents. 8 Warning Signs That Your Child Is Under Too Much Stress. Available at: https://www.scholastic.com/parents/family-life/social-emotional-learning/social-skills-for-kids/8-warning-signs-your-child-under-too-much-stress.html (Accessed 2 February 2023)
- Boys and Girls Club of America. 2020. Is My Child OK? Warning Signs Kids and Teens are Stressed. Available at: https://www.bgca.org/news-stories/2020/June/Warning-Signs-Kids-and-Teens-are-Stressed-and-How-to-Help (Accessed 2 February 2023)