Stress, in simple terms, is the body’s reaction to a challenge or unpleasant situation that the person perceives to have little or no control over. Children get stressed just like adults do, but the symptoms look a little different.
Signs that your child may be feeling stressed
• Difficulty sleeping. While some adults and teens sleep more when they are stressed, it is the opposite in young children. If your child is having difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or napping they may be feeling stressed.
• Tantrums and behavior problems: A tantrum can be brought on by the simplest of situations such as lack of sleep or hunger, but an increase in tantrums over a 3 day period with no other possible causes could also be a sign of stress.
• Sickness: Stress decreases the immune system which can make a child more susceptible to illnesses. Other symptoms of stress in children are a decreased appetite and a change in bowl movements (diarrhea or constipation).
• Separation anxiety: Not all separation anxiety means that a child is stressed; however, a sudden increase in distress when a primary caregiver leaves that occurs along with other environmental factors could be an indicator of stress.
• Difficulty concentrating: This is more evident in preschool and elementary aged children but can sometimes be seen in toddlers. Look for changes in your child’s normal level of concentration. If they will normally watch a 30 minute TV program or color for 15 minutes, and now they wonder off after 3 minutes, it may be a sign of stress.