Skip to main content

Oregon Family Magazine

Signs Your Child May Be Stressed

08/29/2019 21:29 ● By Sandy Kauten
One of the top health care concerns facing kids is stress. The American Psychiatric Association’s Stress in America survey finds that, on average, high school students report stress levels that top those of adults. But it’s not just teens, more and more kids are showing signs of stress as early as grade school.

In small doses, stress can be good—providing the energy to tackle a big test, a class presentation or sports event. But when stress goes unchecked, it can cause physical, emotional and behavioral distress.

Unlike adults, kids—especially younger ones—don’t typically describe what they’re feeling as stress. Instead, those feelings often manifest as headaches, stomachaches, nightmares or trouble sleeping. Parents should watch for changes in their child’s eating and/or sleep patterns, sudden changes in their friend group, or a significant change in their mood. Take notice if your child is suddenly much more irritable or tearful, or if you notice he or she is withdrawing from things they typically enjoy.

Common stressors include:

·       School and/or homework

·       Problems with friends

·       A child’s home environment

·       Excess use of technology

Being over-scheduled with activities and responsibilities can also take its toll on a child, as well as exposure to social media.

Be sure your child is getting enough sleep and eating right. Imbalances in either of those areas can cause kids to become stressed. It’s also possible your child’s change in mood could be caused by something as simple as a vitamin D deficiency, which is common for people living in the Pacific Northwest. A test can determine if your child is deficient, which can be remedied by taking a daily supplement.

Discuss any changes in your child’s mood or behavior with your health care provider. It’s important to identify when your child is overwhelmed or anxious because the stress kids feel in childhood can mount as they get older.

By Pilar Bradshaw, M.D., F.A.A.P.

Eugene Pediatric Associates