It should come as no surprise that children experience stress. Our children face numerous challenges, ranging from the pressures of school and social life to external factors. But how can you tell if your children are stressed? 

Here is some useful information about stress in children, including how to help them and what to expect.

Stress symptoms in toddlers and young children

Most children experience stress regularly. However, the way stress manifests itself varies. Every child is unique and will exhibit her own personal stress signs. Parents must be alert for unusual or suspicious behaviours and actions.

The following 10 symptoms may indicate that your toddler or young child is stressed:

  1. Lack of appetite or the opposite – increased eating 
  2. Changes in emotions (sudden sadness, clinginess, withdrawal, or anger) 
  3. Increased crying or tantrums 
  4. Nightmares and fears at bedtime
  5. Anxious tics, coughs, or body movements 
  6. Biting their nails, chewing their hair, or thumb-sucking 
  7. Changes in bowel movements
  8. Expressing increased fear or anxiety verbally 
  9. Asking more questions (often repeatedly)
  10. Requiring constant reassurance

While these symptoms do not always indicate stress, if you are concerned that a child’s behaviour is becoming more extreme, seek professional help.

Stress symptoms in older children, tweens and teens

Stress symptoms in older children, tweens and teens differ from person to person and age to age. Your child may exhibit one or more of the following 10 symptoms if they are stressed:

  1. Migraines or headaches 
  2. Stomach craps 
  3. Nausea 
  4. Sleep issues, such as nightmares or insomnia 
  5. Irritability  
  6. Changes in social behaviour 
  7. Sadness 
  8. Unprovoked anger
  9. Changes in eating habits
  10. New obsessions or compulsions

What are the top causes of childhood stress?

Various factors, ranging from academic concerns to a full social calendar, can cause stress in children. The most common stress causes in children aged 18 months to 18 years old are listed below.

  • Separation anxiety 
  • Changes within the family (such as death, divorce, or a move)
  • School
  • Overwhelming timetables
  • Unexpected global events
  • Puberty
  • Everyday stressors

How to help your stressed child

In addition to seeking professional advice, parents can help reduce some of the stressors in their children’s lives by: 

  • Giving your child extra love and support so they feel more at ease and settle into new patterns.
  • Keeping an eye on what programmes your child is watching on television and YouTube.
  • Monitoring your child’s internet usage, as social media and cyberbullying can be major sources of stress for tweens and teens.
  • Teaching your child stress management techniques like deep breathing and visualising calming scenes. 
  • Remembering that every child is unique and that stress coping techniques need to complement your child’s personality and temperament.
  • Not fighting with your partner infront of your child. Parents who frequently argue should seek marital therapy to reduce tension in the home.

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