Help Your Child Cope with Stress
Stress can affect children, even before they're old enough to talk.
When stressed, children may show changes in behavior or mood, cling to parents, or have problems sleeping. Stressed older children may resist going to school or doing homework.
Other signs of stress in children include:
- Inability to control emotions
- New or recurring fears (such as fear of the dark or fear of strangers)
- Decreased appetite or changes in eating habits
- Aggressive or stubborn behavior
A child's age and temperament may make her or him more sensitive to stress. Younger and shyer children tend to experience more stress than do older and more outgoing ones. However, major changes, such as the death of a loved one, can trigger stress in any child.
To help your children cope with stress:
- Model stress-reducing behaviors, such as exercising and not overdoing commitments.
- Give age-appropriate explanations about a family crisis. And reassure children that they are not to blame.
- Offer children a chance to feel useful and take part in decisions.
- Provide a safe, secure home life.
- Spend calm, relaxed time with your children.
- Listen to your child without being critical.
- Encourage your children to become physically active.
- Talk to your doctor if signs of stress do not decrease or disappear.
Sources: Krames Staywell, National Institutes of Health