Stress in Young Children

October 28, 2015

Posted by Shelly Odell

Children have less understanding and control of their world and, as a result, change can become stressful. 

Stressors can be:

  • positive (ex: the birth of a sibling)
  • negative (ex: death of a relative)
  • internal (ex: growth and development), and
  • external (ex: change in family composition)

Stress is a normal part of everyday life; however, excessive stress can become a problem.  Children do not yet have the skills to understand how to manage their stress; therefore, adults need to identify causes and symptoms to be effective when helping their child manage stress.

Children may display signs of stress very differently.  

Infants who are stressed may tend to be fussy or cry more than usual.  Keeping routines and maintaining a consistent environment will help.

Toddlers are more prone to demonstrate stress through appetite and sleeping habit changes or biting and tantrums.  Again, consistency is key.  Avoid introducing too many new things or foods at one time or during times where your child is already exhibiting possible signs of stress.

Preschoolers who are stressed often regress to younger behaviors such as baby talk, bed wetting, and more.  They may also become more aggressive with others.

School age children may act out in school or become difficult at home.  They may be argumentative and easily annoyed.

Consistency in the environment is always helpful and a loving supportive adult is necessary.

 

Possible Signs of Stress

  • Biting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nail biting
  • Anger
  • Hitting
  • Indigestion (frequent stomach aches)
  • Stuttering
  • Trouble sleeping, including nightmares
  • Baby talk
  • Excessive crying or tantrums

 

Originally shared in the July 2011 Parent Press

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