6 Signs of Stress in Children

Signs of an upset child - Parenting by ZenParent

Famous mystery writer Agatha Christie once said that one of the luckiest things that could happen to anyone is to have a happy childhood. As parents, most of us agree with her and wish nothing less for our own offspring. So when your little munchkin seems distraught about something, it can break your heart and make you want to fix things right away. That is all very well, but what if you don’t even recognize that something is bothering your child?

Children seldom stick to a constant behavioral pattern throughout their growing years. As their personalities keep changing, it can get a little confusing (even for their own parents) to keep track of tell tale signs of childhood stress. Moreover, in this day and age of business and smart phones, visual cues of anxiety can get lost somewhere in the noise.

Young children may not be able to express their feelings well enough and older children may not want to. In such a scenario, it becomes imperative for parents to acquaint themselves with the signs that something may be bothering their child.

1. Physical complaints: The most common signs that something is bothering your child have to do with physical ailments, mainly related to sleeping and eating. When children are upset about something, they generally have erratic sleeping schedules and their appetite decreases. They also complain of headaches, tummy aches and odd pains which don’t seem to go away in spite of not having any visible cause.

2. Recurrence of ‘baby’ habits: This is particularly true of preschoolers, but may also be seen among school goers. They resort to earlier habits like bed wetting, thumb sucking and display an increased dependence on an adult, usually the mother or father. This may also be accompanied by nervous behavior like nail biting or hair pulling.

Stress in children is more common than we think - Parenting by Zen Parent

3. Over-reacting and clinginess: Children who are strung up about something usually vent out their feelings by over reacting to minor disturbances, such as throwing a tantrum when the power goes off and he can’t watch TV. He may also take mild pushes and shoves from playmates seriously and react with aggression. They also become clingier, creating a scene when going to school or being left with a babysitter.

4. Changed behavioral patterns: Any deviation from a child’s regular behavior signals something that is upsetting her. A previously good tempered child may become overly aggressive and an enthusiastic child may become withdrawn and quiet. They also don’t appear interested in activities that used to delight them. They may become too possessive over their belongings or may let go of them altogether.

Anger is common in a stressed child - Parenting by Zen Parent

5. Poor school performance: When something is bothering a child, it more often than not reflects in his performance at school. He’s not able to focus in class, disregards homework and as a result, his grades fall. It’s quite likely that his teacher will arrange a meeting to discuss his changed level of interest.

6. Fear: When kids are worried about something, it can show up in fear of things they previously weren’t afraid of. Nightmares become more frequent, as do a fear of going to the bathroom alone. They might become extra fearful of strangers and might prefer to stay at home rather than go out.

If you feel that your child is indeed showing signs of being distressed, then in a peaceful setting, gently talk to your child on what is bothering him/her.

Click here for Tips on helping a Stressed child

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