Believe it or not, children can experience stress just as much as adults. Pressure to do well in school, to make new friends or maintain old friends, or just managing expectations of mentors and role models are all example sources of stress for kids.
Some children may not be able to articulate the stress that they are feeling, however. The American Psychological Association (APA) recommends tuning into the following emotional or behavioral cues to recognize possible signs of stress.
1. Negative Changes in Behavior. Especially in younger children who may not know how to verbalize emotions, a feeling of stress can often manifest itself in behavioral changes, including:
- Moodiness or irritability
- Withdrawing from activities generally enjoyed
- Acting worried
- Complaining more than usual
- Crying more often
- Surprisingly fearful reactions
- Clinging behavior
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Eating too much or too little
2. Feeling Sick More Often. Feelings of stress have been known to cause physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches. If your child complains of such symptoms but has been given a clean bill of health by his or her pediatrician, your child may feel stressed. Monitor your child’s complaints to see if they seem to increase under certain circumstances, such as before an exam.
3. Nightmares. Feelings of stress while awake can often result in sleep-related fear. Nightmares can be a result of unresolved feelings or a response to a stressful experience. Talk with your child to help your child work through or identify his or her emotions.
4. Bed-wetting. Young children who feel stressed may regress and could miss bathroom cues. These kinds of incidents are normal. However, it’s important to consult with his or her pediatrician in order to rule out any medical condition that could be causing your child to wet the bed.