Childhood Stress: What You Need To Know

Just like adults, children can get stressed and they are also just as vulnerable to the long and short terms effects of stress. 

Just like adults, children can get stressed and they are also just as vulnerable to the long and short terms effects of stress.
Here are some things you need to know about childhood stress:
1. Why do kids get stressed?
Stress is a perfectly normal response to the demands and rigours of life and the pressure that exist in life. For children, their stress can come from anywhere, but it usually stems from school, family or friends. Kids become overwhelmed and therefore, get anxious. Interestingly, many children struggle to find the time to relax or rest as life in school and after school is busy. This causes some anxiety and is normal, but it should be managed. Other factors could be situations like parents separating, grief or social pressures.  
2. How do you recognise children’s stress?
Many kids behave differently with stress and one of the biggest signs of children’s stress is headaches or complaints of sickness. If your child suddenly changes their behaviour that could be a sign too, as you know your child and if they aren’t sleeping or seem exhausted, they may be suffering from stress and anxiety. Some children complain of stomach aches while others become quiet and withdrawn. Their mood is not the same and they struggle to contain their anger or emotions. Younger kids may pick up new habits and become inclined to act out, lie or become clingy. Any changes in behaviour are a red flag and you need to talk to your child if these things are occurring.
3. How can you help your child?
If your child’s stress is stemming from their home life, it is vital that you and your partner discuss making life easier for your child. Are your children hearing arguments or have they heard some news that they shouldn’t have? You need to watch how you talk around young kids as they take things literally. A simple comment like “The world is going to end” literally means it is going to end, to a child. Talk to your child about their feelings and if they are upset about something at school discuss it and try to help them as much as you can. Don’t be hard on them and stop short of putting their worry on the silly list. Accept their problem is very real for them and it doesn’t matter if it is about the simplest of things as it is their stress and their anxiety. No matter how small you may consider the issue anything that causes your child stress should be taken seriously.
4. Other tips:
  • Ensure your child eats well and gets enough sleep
  • Make time for your child and listen to them
  • Have fun/play time and ensure your kid laughs often
  • Find solutions to stress and manage it – don’t avoid triggers as somethings are unavoidable but teach your kid techniques like deep breaths, distracting themselves from their anxiety with reading or colouring or listening to music. Buy them books about stress or anxiety and talk it through with them.
  • Give your child a diary to document their feelings
  • Give them something important to do (whether it is feeding the dog or helping in the house with dinner) as it means they make a difference. Every child wants to fit in and feel significant. Make your child feel important to your family life.
  • Talk to their teacher if they are upset about friends or bullying
  • Talk to your doctor if they seem extremely stressed and anxious or are not sleeping
Emma Hayes is a thirty-something mum of two girls aged 16 and 10, planting her right into the teenage and tween-age years! Follow her on Twitter at @EmmaHayes25.

Emma Hayes

Emma Hayes is a busy mum to two girls aged 17 and 11 and is married to her childhood sweetheart.

Read more by Emma
{{ post.excerpt }}
{{ post.content.formatted }}

What is Family Friendly HQ?

Family Friendly HQ is Ireland’s trusted parenting community, dedicated to mums and dads, and families of all shapes and sizes.

Read more about us