Most of us tend to look back on childhood as an easy time in our lives, especially compared to the stress of adulthood. But that doesn’t make childhood stress any less real. We tend to forget that our kids can get stressed out as well. Sometimes a child's stress from school can negatively affect other areas of life, causing behavioral changes. Here are some warning signs to watch for.
Sudden Behavior Changes
This can be one of the surest signs that something is wrong in your child’s life. If your child is already potty trained and then suddenly starts wetting the bed, it can indicate that he's worried about something. Nightmares are also common. Some kids will revert to sucking their thumb, even if they’re in their early grade-school years. Twirling their hair and picking their nose have been pinpointed as additional signs of stress. Sudden mood swings, temper tantrums and a disrupted sleep pattern can also be stress indicators.
Sometimes children will get physically sick from stress. This can manifest as a tummy ache or headache. They may develop trouble concentrating in school and may become withdrawn.
Other Signs of Childhood Stress
Researchers have found that children who start bullying others are actually overstressed. They lash out at other children as a means of reacting to stress in their own lives. Chronic lying and defiant behaviors can also indicate stress.
Stressed out children may become very clingy to mom or dad. They won’t want to be dropped off at school, because they’d rather have the comfort they feel when they’re in your presence. They may overreact to things at the drop of a hat. A sudden drop in grades can be an indicator that your child is stressed at school. If this occurs, it is likely he is acting out because he doesn't want to be at school, which is one of the most common sources of childhood stress.
Dealing with Stress
Once you recognize that your child may be dealing with stress, sit down and talk with them. One common source of childhood stress is an over-booked schedule. Between school, sports, extra-curricular activities and family time, children can become overwhelmed. Talk with them about adjusting their schedule or dropping a few activities to help reduce their stress level.
A lack of exercise can sometimes stress kids out as well. You’d be surprised how some quality playtime in the yard after school with mom and dad can improve everyone’s stress level. Make sure your child knows that you’re available anytime they want to talk about their problems, and let them know that their problems are important to you. Stress is a normal part of life, and helping them to cope with it is part of helping them mature.