Parents may not know how to recognize stress in their child. Look for these signs of stress in older children & adolescents…
- Changes in mood (not typical for your child) – irritability, rage, & new conflicts with friends.
- A new nervous habit, such as nail-biting may indicate anxiety.
- New fears – such as fear of the dark, being alone, fears of burglars, or strangers.
- Getting into trouble at school.
- Refusal to go to school – always a red flag for stress.
- Loss of interest in activities they like – for instance, giving up on music or a favorite sport.
- Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much.
- New bedwetting, always a sign of trouble.
- New complaints of stomachaches or headaches.
- Changes in appetite, weight, or eating patterns – like saying, “I’m not hungry” or eating all the time.
- Not interested in schoolwork, or poor academic effort.
- Can’t think, focus, or concentrate may be due to stress.
- Changes in appearance – looking sloppy & dirty, or lacking in personal hygiene (especially for teens).
- Changes in behavior, such as backing off personal relationships. Is your outgoing teen no longer interested in texting or video chatting with friends?
- Increased risky behaviors – using weed, drugs, or alcohol, especially in adolescents.
- Talking about suicide. This is never normal. Please get help.
Common causes of stress in children include…
Anxiety about school is a child’s #1 stressor. School causes academic pressure for children who fear making mistakes and anxiety about the Covid virus & wearing masks all day. Children may have anxiety about having a learning disability.
Other causes of stress include:
- Changes in the family – for instance, a new sibling, a divorce, moving to a new school or city, or a death in the family (think Covid).
- Parental problems – money concerns, job loss, family chaos, & parental irritability or agitation (drug use, alcoholism). You may think they don’t, but they do know what is going on at home.
- Overly packed schedules – too many activities, constantly running from one activity to the next. No down time may stress kids.
- Bullying – whether subtle, or obvious. Children who are bullied may be embarrassed & hide or deny the bullying from parents & teachers. Bullying can destroy a child’s self-esteem.
- Being different – the child who is a loner, a social misfit, or one who has a disability may feel alone & anxious already.
- News headlines (on TV or another screen) – images of forest fires, hurricanes, or gun violence.
- Scary movies or books – movie scenes that are scary or violent, stories in books that scare them.
- Popularity in school – Children want to fit in with other kids & be liked. By fourth grade, the pressure to be popular is real. Cliques – especially for girls – & feeling excluded become an issue in grade school.
- Just like us, many things can cause your child to feel stress.
Please go to HealthyChildren.org for more information. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/emotional-