As your children grow up and take on more activities and responsibilities, they are more prone to stress.
Children may not know that they are experiencing stress and they may lack the maturity to explain how they feel to their parents. This often leads to a variety of physical and behavioural changes.
Depending on their age, personality and coping skills, children respond differently to stress. This can cause parents to look past the underlying issues that may be contributing towards their child’s behaviour.
It is important for parents to recognise the signs of childhood stress and to investigate the possible causes.
Read also: 7 Ways Parents Can Inspire Their Kids to Do their Best
Common signs of stress in children
1. Inability to concentrate and complete homework
Issues such as the pressure to do well academically and to fit in in school often cause stress in children. Help your child to balance his/her priorities when it comes to studies and let your child know that he/she can always talk to you whenever there are doubts or roadblocks in his/her life.
While extracurricular activities can help to take your child’s mind off the pressure of studies, be careful not to over-schedule your child as this may add on to his/her anxiety. They key here is to maintain a good balance between studies and out-of-school activities.
2. Getting aggressive
When they are under stress, some children let it all out with physical aggression such as biting, kicking or hitting. Some may even resort to verbal aggression such as screaming, throwing tantrums or name-calling.
Children who are undergoing childhood stress also tend to struggle with completing tasks that require time and patience.
You can help your child get through this difficult phase by encouraging him/her to talk to you. Look for books or online resources for ideas to start a meaningful conversation with kids. If, after trying numerous times, and there is still no progress, you might want to consult an expert such as a child psychologist or therapist.
3. Being hyperactive
When children are undergoing stress, negative energy is released. This often results in them throwing temper tantrums or constantly being disobedient – as they are trying to “tell” you that there is a problem and they don’t really know how to deal with it.
Help your child channel his/her energy in a positive way that helps to calm him/her. Some great examples are deep breathing exercises, listening to soothing music, as well as playing a musical instrument or learning a dance that he/she is interested in.
4. Changes in eating and sleeping habits
When your child is under pressure, he/she tend to worry or get restless. These will then interrupt his/her sleeping. A sudden change in eating habits (i.e. your child might be eating less or more than usual out of a sudden) is another possible sign of stress.
Get help from another trusted adult (e.g. your child’s teacher) to find out what is causing your child to feel stressed – and work together to eliminate these behaviours.
5. Overreacting to minor issues
You might have communicated to your child what you expect him/her to achieve. In a bid to please you and live up to your expectations, your child might worry that whatever he/she does is just not good enough for you.
Instead of putting your child down when he/she stumbles, build your child’s confidence so that he/she is empowered to deal with life’s challenges and solve problems as they occur.
6. Keeping a distance from family and friends
Changes that take place in your child’s life such as moving to a new home, welcoming a new sibling or getting bullied at school, can lead to fear in your child or leave him/her feeling left out.
Always consider your child’s feelings despite the changes that are taking place. Give your child your undivided attention and as much as possible, maintain the usual routines to provide comfort to your child.
If you suspect that your child is having a hard time with his/her peers in school, speak to your child’s teacher about this and get the teacher’s help to observe as well.
7. Having nightmares
Displaying fear, even while sleeping, is a common response to stressful or traumatic experiences. You can provide comfort to your child in knowing that he/she is not alone in feeling that way by telling stories about other kids who are going through the exact same thing. This helps to let your child know that you understand how he/she feels as well.
When children feel insecure or have a lot on their minds, their ability to respond to toileting cues might be disrupted. Let your child know that you are not angry when he/she has an accident. If you are worried that this will prolong, see your child’s doctor to rule out any medical conditions that could cause bedwetting.
Read also: Exam Stress in Children: Warning Signs and Tips to Manage
Stress in children is more common than you think. Children who are going through childhood stress may not be able to fully understand or explain their feelings. The most important thing is that we, as parents, are aware and alert to the signs of stress in children as this will help us to step in and help our children before it affects your child to a greater extent.