Recognizing When Your Child Is Stressed

Donna SLam — Recognizing When Your Child Is Stressed

Small Things Can Be Very Upsetting

  • Physical Symptoms
    Stressed children may exhibit physical symptoms, such as stomach pain, diarrhea, headaches, restless sleep, nightmares, bedwetting, changes in appetite, nausea, increased heart rate, and pretending to be sick to avoid activities.
  • Emotional Psychological Symptoms
    A stressed child may exhibit depression, anxiety, excessive sensitivity, social withdrawal, clinginess, increased crying, anger, stubbornness, aggression, and emotional overreactions to minor incidents. Stressed kids may be aggressive or have angry outbursts.
  • Listen
    Really listen. You may ask your stressed child what’s wrong, or why he is acting a certain way, and you may not get an answer. Or you get an answer like “Nothing.” But really listening means paying attention to your child’s words and body language even when they don’t know you’re watching. Certainly asking your child what is wrong is a good thing to do; it shows you care. But don’t interrogate her or him, or expect your child to be able to verbalize exactly what’s occurring in her or his life and how it’s affecting her or him. Even some adults have trouble with this. So try to “read” into the passing comments, complaints, and body language of your child.
  • Express Empathy
    If you express empathy, it shows your child that you do notice and understand. Verbally expressing empathy can also help your child build a vocabulary to explain her or his stressful feelings. You might say, “I bet it hurts your feelings when people call you names. It hurts mine, too,” and share an experience from your past.
  • Help Your Child To Be Proactive
    Work with your child in finding solutions to her or his stress. Sit down and make lists of things she or he could do, such as writing a letter to the stress-causing person or cutting back on some of his extra-curricular activities. Let your child know that she or he does not have to be doing something 24 hours a day to have personal worth. She or he has worth because of who she or he is!

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