Children can become stressed just like adults. The sources can be external, such as homework load, tests, problems at home or overwhelming schedule. Triggers can also be internal, such as pressures from parents or friends. Also like adults, a little stress is normal, but prolonged stress can have a negative impact on health, contributing to issues such as high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. That’s why it’s important to recognize the signs of a stressed child and help them work through it.
Here are some ways to tell if your child is stressed above normal bounds and ways you can help them conquer that stress.
Signs of Stress
Children know how to deal with situations that cause a little bit of stress, like starting a new school or performing in a dance recital, but sometimes children can become overwhelmed. Knowing when levels have become unmanageable can manifest in several different ways, usually with a negative shift in behavior.
Signs of stress:
- Sleeping significantly more or less than usual
- Eating significantly more or less than usual
- Withdrawal from parents or close friends
- Sudden loss in favorite hobbies
- Bullying other children
- Sudden drop in grades
- Frequently complaining of being sick or having headaches when their physician gives them a clean bill of health
Children sometimes cannot verbally express that they are stressed, which is why spending time with your children and paying attention to changes in their behavior is important.
You may also need to talk to other adults since you are not around your children all day, every day. Communicate with their teachers, administrators and other parents. Someone else may have noticed something you haven’t picked up on.
Conquering Your Child’s Stress
The good news is that your children do not have to stay stressed and you can help them conquer it. First, start by making sure your child is getting enough sleep, exercise and healthy foods. These three components are vital for overall health. Lack of sleep could lead to lack of concentration and bad grades. Eating fried foods and drinking soda can affect a child’s mood as well as their physical and mental health. Children need an hour of exercise per day to stay healthy and help their mental state. Checking to make sure these three needs are met is a great starting point.
If exercise, sleep and diet needs are all being met, you’ll need to look at other potential causes. It can of course be difficult to directly talk about what is wrong with children, but spending time with them every day and asking them about their day can go a long way. Let them know you are there to listen; this can be done at the dinner table or even during a game of basketball.
Sharing your stress with your children can also help them understand how to handle stressful situations. Let them know that you handle stress and can be there to help them deal with theirs.
Try to remain open and understand that some things might not seem stressful to you, but may be an issue for your child. Let them express their feelings without fear of judgment.
If your child refuses to speak about what is causing their stress or is unable to, talk to your child’s pediatrician and discuss next steps. To find a UT Health East Texas Physician, call 903-596-DOCS or visit https://uthealtheasttexas.com/providers.