Stress in children: Spotting the signs and how to help

Posted by
Joe Lockley
April 30, 2024

April is Stress Awareness Month, providing an ideal opportunity for us to highlight the
increasing problem of stress in children - how to spot it and what to do about it.
As incredible as it seems, children can suffer from stress from as young as six-
months old. Separation Anxiety can affect babies and toddlers up to about three-
years-old, but this is a normal part of a child’s development, and they usually grow
out of it.

As children grow, however, they can be susceptible to stress and anxiety brought
about by things such as problems at school or in their home life, which can impact
their health and mental wellbeing.

For example:
● Nearly 65% of young people report trouble sleeping
● More than 70% feel stressed out about school coursework and classes
● Almost half of young people feel uncomfortable about asking questions

How to spot the signs
We can all play a part in remaining alert to the warning signs of stress in young people, which include:
● Constant worrying
● A change in sleeping or eating habits
● Being irritable or moody
● A lack of interest in something they once loved
● Concerns about school
● Being fearful
● Crying
● Lethargy or becoming excessively clingy
● Bouts of anger
● Increasing medical issues such as stomach ache or headaches
● Fatigue
● Avoiding interaction with family and friends
● A loss of self-worth

What next?

Having identified the problem, the next step is to do something about it. It is
important to remember that help is available through various local and national
organisations, but if you feel you need professional support, the best first step is to
speak with your doctor.

Always try to encourage your child to talk about their feelings and what they think is
worrying them. Be sympathetic, understanding, willing to listen, and reassure them of
your desire to help.

Other things you can do include:
● Encourage your child to play; a positive distraction and an excellent way of
making friends
● Read together as a way of sharing feelings and developing conversations
● Have fun together and make some good memories
● Regulate their time on social media
● Take up new interests like nature walks, spending time with animals, learning
to play a musical instrument or take up a new craft or hobby
● Have a container where they can leave a note about something they have
enjoyed doing that day and a different box where they can do the same about
anything that is worrying them. An ideal way for you to keep track of what is
on their mind
● Keep track of sleep patterns and changes in behaviour
● Maintain a healthy eating programme and encourage regular physical
● Ensure your child feels safe, cared for and loved

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