Signs of Stress in Children

Think back to the times of carefree abandonment in your childhood. Those days of unparalleled joy and fun when nothing but eating and playing was on your list. Stress as a concept had probably never even crossed your mind. But times changed and stress did become a part of your life. That carefree time of your childhood was relegated into a thing of the past. A place that you would think back to and ruefully comment, ‘Those were the days’. Yet the conviction somehow remained that childhood is stress free. Sadly, that theory has long been forgotten. With changing times, stress has touched each one of our lives and children have not been excluded either. Stress is extremely common in the children of today. And even though the concept might be alien to you, it is necessary to identify the signs of stress in children to be able to help them.

Identifying Stress in children

How do you go about identifying stress in your children? We might think that stress (anything that psychologically hampers the normal functioning of our bodies) is something that is brought about as a reaction to some incident or occurrence. While this is true, stress can also be caused due to something emotional or a reaction to something affecting us from within.


  • Death of someone close
  • A dull lifestyle with no physical activities
  • Divorce
  • Violent or verbal fights between parents
  • Peer pressure
  • Fatigue, due to lack of proper diet.
  • Fear of failure brought on by too many activities
  • Moving from one place to the other
  • Sibling Rivalry
  • Trauma from sexual abuse

Once it is clear that these situations and causes could lead to stress, it becomes easier to identify stress in your children.

Symptoms (in Young Children)

  • Complaining of tummy aches
  • Constant headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain in the chest
  • Throwing temper tantrums and answering back
  • Yelling, shouting and pouting
  • Experiencing nightmares and wetting the bed
  • Clinging on to parents
  • Thumb sucking or developing a sudden fear of the dark
  • Getting recurring bouts of fever
  • Crying more than they usually do
  • Rocking from side to side and biting people
  • Slow recovery from illness
  • Forgetting what was taught
  • Displaying sensitivity when loud noises or sudden noises occur
  • Increased toilet accidents

Symptoms (in Older Children)

Children above the age of 5 till adolescence react to stress in different ways. By this time they have learned to express themselves and that plays a major role in their reaction to stress. Identifying stress in your children becomes easier once you know about the different symptoms that lead to stress in your children:

  • Their hands become shaky and they feel lightheaded
  • Changes in appetite are recorded
  • Stuttering
  • Experiencing night terrors or nightmares
  • Complaining of nausea, stomach problems and headaches
  • They cannot relax and experience restlessness
  • Moody behavior is observed and they become withdrawn
  • They have difficulty expressing feelings and emotions
  • Exhibition of aggressiveness and a tendency to back answer
  • Biting nails or sucking their thumbs. They might even start clenching their fists and twirling their hair
  • Loss of self-confidence and self expression skills
  • They constantly dip towards negative thoughts and feelings
  • Experience anxiety, develop new fears and worries
  • Skipping school often
  • Loss of concentration
  • School work starts to deteriorate
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Exhibit destructive behavior like bullying others
  • They seem worried at all times
  • Having panic attacks
  • They might seem lazy and not interested in the normal day-to-day activities
  • Crying
  • Become accident prone

All these signs will help you in identifying stress in your children. The different behavioral and physical changes in their behavior brought about as a result of stress can really play havoc with the growth and development of the child. Once these signs are identified, it becomes imperative that we correct the situation that is causing these signs of stress in children and provide a safe and nurturing environment for them.

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