As children get older and take on new responsibilities, more activities, and larger homework loads, they are more susceptible to stress. Take a look at these eight telltale signs that your child may be dealing with stress.
- Nightmares: Sleep-related fear is a common response to stressful or traumatic experiences. Telling your child stories about other kids with feelings just like theirs can help them feel better. It lets them know that you understand their feelings.
- Trouble concentrating and completing schoolwork: Academic and social pressures, especially the need to fit in, are major causes of stress for kids. While extracurricular activities can be a useful outlet, over-scheduling adds to anxiety. Help your child balance his priorities appropriately.
- Increased aggression: Some children, when under stress, react with physical aggression (biting, kicking, or hitting) or verbal aggression (screaming or name calling). They also tend to have difficulty completing tasks that require patience. If talking with your child doesn't help (try books to help spark a meaningful conversation), consult an expert such as a doctor or therapist.
- Bedwetting: Children that are feeling insecure or have a lot on their minds may miss toileting cues. Reassure your child that you are not angry when he has an accident. See his doctor to rule out a medical condition that could cause bedwetting.
- Hyperactive behavior: When children can't handle the stress that they feel, they release negative energy. Having temper tantrums, running away, or constantly being disobedient are ways to alert adults that there is a problem. Help your child burn off energy in a positive, calming way: deep breathing exercises, listening to soothing music, stretching, or yoga.
- Withdrawing from family and friends: Moving, divorce, a new sibling, or bullying at school can cause a child to feel left out or scared. Offer plenty of positive attention and maintain familiar routines to provide comfort. Speak to your child's teacher if you suspect she is having trouble with friends at school.
- Eating or sleeping disorders: When a child is under pressure, restlessness and worry interrupts sleeping habits. A sudden change in eating habits, whether eating less or more, is another sign of stress. Getting to the root of his anxiety (often with help from a child psychologist or counselor) can alleviate these behaviors.
- Overreactions to minor problems: Sometimes, the pressure to please parents causes children to be perfectionists and worry constantly. Build your child's confidence so he can meet challenges and solve problems on his own.
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