Signs of Stress: How to Tell if Your Child Needs Help

Earlier, I wrote about the troubling epidemic of stressed-out kids and urged us all to look closer at our children. Since each child displays stress a bit differently, the secret is to look for change in your child's normal coping pattern and watch your child carefully to identify his unique stress signs. Here are a few places to start:


Signs of Stress in Younger Kids

A child is never too young to experience stress. Plus, younger kids cannot verbalize their stress or express that "I'm overwhelmed Mom—back off!" Instead, watch for these behavioral and physical signs:

  • Defiant or irritable behavior
  • Pouting, yelling, talking back
  • Physical pushing, temper tantrums
  • Lack of appetite
  • Tummy aches
  • Headaches
  • Chest pains
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble sleeping, nightmares


Signs of Stress in Older Kids

While older kids can verbalize their stress, they too can show signs of stress through the following behavioral and physical actions:

  • Headaches, nausea, stomachaches
  • Shaky hands and lightheadedness
  • Bedwetting, nightmares, night terrors
  • Changes in appetite
  • Stuttering
  • Anxiety, worries, new or reoccurring fears
  • Trouble relaxing or restless
  • Difficult concentrating; dip in school work
  • Withdrawal from school, social or family activities
  • Moodiness or inability to control emotions
  • Regressing to baby-like behaviors
  • Nail-biting, hair twirling, thumb-sucking, fist clenching
  • Acting out; aggressive behaviors

Of course, the best sign is your instinct. If you think something isn't right for your child, act on your instinct. Pick up the phone and get help. No one knows your child better than you do!

Dr. Michele Borba is the author of No More Misbehavin': 38 Difficult Behaviors and How to Stop Them.

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