Change and transitions are inevitable in life. But that fact doesn’t make them any easier, especially for children. Kids are naturally resilient, but they can and will get stressed when big changes turn into big deals.
Stress, worry, or anxiety can manifest in children in diverse ways—and they’re often displayed through identifiable physical, behavioral, or emotional signs. Let’s take a closer look at stress in children and the silent warning signs to look out for. If you notice your little one exhibiting any of these behaviors, they may need further support to cope with and manage their feelings.
Emotional: Excessive Withdrawal or Clinginess
Each child is different, especially in terms of their personality and typical coping style. If you think your child may be facing higher-than-normal stress levels, pay close attention to how they act throughout the day. You may notice that their personality is diverging from the norm.
For example, stress can induce increased isolation or difficulty separating. In times of stress, many children want to be around people who make them feel safe. They tend to cling and want to spend more time with you. On the flip side, many children actually respond to stressors by disengaging with the world around them. They’ll avoid family members, friends, or favorite activities or become less talkative. These are all possible cues for a parent that their child is having difficulty coping with something in their life.
Physical Differences: Eating or Sleeping Patterns
With regard to stress in children, pattern divergence is another of the silent warning signs to look out for. Kids tend to have set routines, and changes in their customary behaviors are common when they’re overwhelmed or worried. You may notice that they’re having a hard time falling or staying asleep or that they have a smaller or larger appetite during mealtimes. Some alternative physical effects of stress include body aches and pains, nightmares, bed-wetting, or a poor immune system.
Behavioral: Unusual Mood Changes or Responses
Behavioral signs can vary widely, but you may notice unusual changes in a child’s mood, personality, or everyday habits. These could include frequent crying, tantrums, or fidgeting. Some stressors can also trigger regressive or repetitive behaviors, such as thumb-sucking, hair-twisting, or nail-biting.
Fortunately, concerned parents can help and encourage their children. There’s a wide array of beneficial techniques and strategies you can use to sensitively and effectively deal with stressors in your child’s life. When all is said and done, listen to your maternal instincts. You know your own child best, and you can take the right action to provide the extra support they need.