Stress has no age limit and is not limited to adults. Children experience stress as well. Although they experience stress, their symptoms may not be as apparent as an adult’s symptoms. Because the symptoms are not as apparent, it’s important to watch for the common signs of stress in your children. It’s important to be aware that children suffer from stress and this awareness will help you spot the stress before it builds and causes other problems.
Here are some of the symptoms that may be apparent in children who are experiencing stress:
Sudden aggression – Many stressed-out children begin to act out in ways that are uncharacteristic for them and are aggressive in nature. Some signs of aggression may include and are not limited to kicking, biting, hitting, and throwing of objects.
Meltdowns – Many children who are under stress don’t understand the feelings they are experiencing and will suddenly experience “meltdowns” over situations that are small in nature. These meltdowns result from the build up of stress within their bodies. Again they don’t quite understand what is happening and their little bodies will react to the stress as an explosion of sorts. It is important to be aware of the unexplained angry outbursts in your children.
Lethargic behavior – Children can become depressed when they are overrun with stress and one of the common signs of this is a lack of energy, or lethargic behavior. Children may want to be involved in many activities in school and out of school. Many times, the parents will place their children in extra-curricular activities which can literally drain the child. The child will then elicit signs of lethargy because they are truly tired and stressed. It may look like depression at first which is often mistaken for the signs of stress.
Developmental setbacks – If a child is stressed out, and is still young, you may notice that he or she is adopting habits that have long since been broken. For example, it’s not uncommon for young children under stress to resort back to thumb sucking, bedwetting and getting out of their beds at night.
What Causes Stress in Children?
There are many things that can cause stress in children. Although they may not seem important to adults, it is a huge deal to the children so its important not to dismiss their feelings. Some of the causes include a change in family dynamics such as parents who are going through a divorce, constant fighting between parents and siblings, loss of a family member, loss of a family pet or tension in the home. Other stressors for children include issues at school such as teachers, class difficulty, bullies, homework and much more.
How You Can Help
There are several things that you can do to help your child cope with the amount of stress he or she is under.
Try to understand – The worst thing you can do is listen to your child and then make a quick judgment of the situation. Don’t do this because it can cause your child to feel foolish and to hide his or her feelings from you. Listen to what he or she is saying and then try to look at it from his or her point of view. Try to remember back to your childhood and base your response around that viewpoint.
Don’t dismiss it – When your child shares their feelings with you, don’t dismiss them. Instead, let your child know that it’s okay to feel that way and that you’re always there for them. While you may think your child is over-reacting about something, their feelings are still important and very real.
Identify stressors – While your child is experiencing the physical and emotional symptoms of stress, they may not connect the two (stress and their symptoms). Therefore, help your child identify the stressors in his or her life and show him or her how those stressors can cause the symptoms they are currently experiencing.
Most importantly, make your child aware that your home is a safe zone. Children who are experiencing stress simply need a place to unwind and be themselves. Too often they will place the stress on themselves because they think they must behave or be someone they are not. The stressors they experience are not much different than the ones adults suffer from. Being aware of the signs and symptoms will help you, the adult, catch them early on and address the issues.