Just like adults, stress is a normal part of your child’s daily life. Sometimes it’s short lived — a lost toy or a fight with a sibling or friend. But other times it’s much more serious issues, such as bullying, academic pressure, death of a family member or other major life changes.
It can be easy to overlook the signs of stress in children. But, focusing on your child’s mental health is an important part of their whole health. Teaching children how to cope with stress also prepares them to manage situations they’ll encounter later in life.
Causes of Stress in a Child
We all face stressors in life. How you respond often depends on your personality, experience or disposition. Children are just as likely to be affected by certain stressful situations, such as:
- Death of a family member or friend
- Financial problems at home
- Illness (self, family or friend)
Some causes of anxiety are found more in preschoolers than others, such as separation anxiety and fear of something happening to parent or loved one. Young children may also experience academic pressure in school.
Older children also face social anxiety, along with academic pressures. School-age kids and teens cope with sticky friend situations, bullying, fear of not fitting in and anxiety about not being included, all of which can be amplified by social media. Other stressors for school-age children and teens include:
- Activities and overscheduling
- Grades and tests, coupled with fewer outlets at school to cope like recess, PE, art and other electives
- Fear of failure
- Sports or coaches
- Peer pressure
How Can I Tell If My Child Is Stressed?
As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else and will be able to pinpoint signs of stress, such as:
- Avoiding school
- Bed wetting
- Change in sleeping patterns
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood swings
- Physical symptoms (headache, stomach ache, panic attacks)
- Withdrawing from their activities, friends and family
If you notice your child is stressed, work together to discuss the problem and find ways to manage it. You can:
- Encourage physical activity
- Insist your child take more down time to relax and reset
- Monitor screen time and social media use
- Offer healthy meals and snacks
- Support them with school work
Most importantly, you need to take time to talk to your kids, ask them about their day and make sure they feel like they can express fear and emotions. Kids count on their parents for direction and guidance.
When to See a Pediatrician for Stress
Your child’s pediatrician can help you identify what’s causing your child’s stress and anxiety, and create a plan that effectively manages symptoms. Make an appointment with your pediatrician if your child:
- Doesn’t want to go to school often or asks to come home early
- Experiences stress that interrupts their normal activities
- Has persistent physical symptoms, such as stomach ache or headache
- Has significant anxiety and panic attacks
- Will not express feelings to you
Your pediatrician will talk to you and your child about what’s triggering these symptoms, as well as questions about family history of anxiety or depression, since that may increase your child’s risk for these chronic conditions.
Together, you’ll work to come up with a plan that helps your child improve their physical, mental and spiritual health. That may include:
- Books and resources to review together
- Strategies and techniques to help manage stressful situations
- Support groups
- Therapy with a licensed mental health professional
Your Child Is Unique, So Is the Solution
Your pediatrician and licensed mental health professional will work with you to find the right combination of tools to help your child. With time and patience, you’ll find the best way to help them cope successfully with their stress, improving their whole health. Learn more about how our pediatric experts can help.