When children are showing signs of
stress we don't always pick up on
it right away.
To adults, it often seems that kids have
a simple, carefree life with
nothing to get stressed about.
But if we think back to our own
childhoods we may remember that it did
not always feel so easy.
It is true that the things that bother kids are different, and may seem
unimportant to an adult. The people who scare kids mostly wouldn't scare an
adult - they are other kids or maybe very old people. But the fears, anxieties and
stresses of childhood have just the same physical effects on the child as adult anxieties and stresses have on an adult,
and those effects are just as serious.
Many of the signs of stress in children are the same as for an adult.
- digestive problems
- loss of appetite, or 'comfort eating'
- more attacks of any health problem that they are prone to, like asthma or eczema
- muscle tension which may show as making fists or frowning or other
expressions on the face
In addition, many kids under stress will pick up new habits or revert to behaviors that
you thought they had left behind, for example:
- thumb sucking
- bed wetting
- grinding teeth
- over-attachment to certain toys
- telling lies
Some of the things that cause signs of stress in children include:
1. Believing they are not performing as well as they should be performing.
This can be a question of not living up to parents' or teachers' expectations,
or not doing as well as a sibling or friend, either academically or socially.
It may also come from having unrealistic expectations in their own mind.
2. Fears of death and physical injury.
These fears may be prompted by physical threats from other kids, or they can be
caused by world and local events, either in movies or for real on the news (earthquakes,
house fires, kidnappings, murders, etc). Even something like constantly hearing
‘Be careful!’ can be stressful for a child.
3. Separation anxiety.
Very small children can show signs of stress if they are separated from their main caregiver, even for a short time. Older kids become accustomed to not being with mom all day, but they will still suffer from stress if a parent is in the hospital or if the parents split up. Children can also become very stressed by the fear of abandonment or the fear of the death of their parents, on whom their lives depend.
In other words, although the things that a child is stressed about may be less
important on a world scale, the signs of stress are equally severe as for adults,
and so are the effects, both physical and psychological.
Occasional stress is normal for kids the same as for adults, but excessive or chronic stress should be treated. If you are concerned about any stress that a child may be suffering, it is best to talk to a professional.
The signs of stress in children should be taken seriously.