Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety in Children

Inside: Symptoms to look for that can help you determine if your child is experiencing stress or anxiety, and tips that can help you and your child.

Wouldn’t it be nice if your child came up to you and said “Mom, I’m quite stressed about my quiz on Friday” or “I’m really anxious about my piano recital”.

While that would be super helpful, most kids don’t have the language to express themselves that clearly. Instead, it’s up to us to be stress and anxiety detectives with our children. But what are you looking for and what do you do when you do see it?

What should I be looking out for?

Look for changes in their typical behaviors. Pay attention to the signals your child may be sending you. Keep an eye out, and keep track of what you notice over a few days. Things to monitor:

  • Eating Habits - are they eating more than normal? Less?

  • Sleeping Habits - Are they suddenly not sleeping, or waking up frequently during the night? Are they having nightmares or bad dreams? Are they wetting the bed?

  • School Performance - Have their grades suddenly taken a dip? Are they not getting in their assignments?

  • Changes in Behaviors - Are they acting out at home or at school? Are they getting into fights with friends? Are they talking back more frequently than normal?

  • Moods - Do they seem sad or angry or easily irritable?

  • Somatic Complaints - Are they saying their stomach hurts, or they have a headache, or they feel sick with no other signs of illness?

Keep in mind that everyone has bad days. However, when you start to see multiple symptoms happening over a few days, then it’s time to check in with your child.

Questions you can ask:

If you’ve noticed some changes, and you’re starting to get worried, talk about it with your child. During a calm moment, take them to the side, and have a brief chat, just the two of you. They may or may not share anything, but you’ll never know unless you try. A couple of ideas to get you started:

  • I’ve noticed _________. How are you feeling these days?

  • I’ve seen that ____________. Has anything changed recently?

  • I just wanted to check in because you seem a little different recently. How’s everything going with you?

Focus on ways to cope.

Help them figure out what they can do when they are feeling sad, anxious or worried about something. Use the Coping Skills Checklist as a jumping off point to figure out things your child can do to cope with stress. Check the ones that already work for them, cross off the ones that don’t and circle the ones to try.

Make a Coping Skills Toolkit

Create a ready to go kit they can use at any time they are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Learn more about how to make one by clicking the image below:


Spend some time together

Sometimes, all it takes is a little down time together to reconnect as a family and reset. Go to the movies, watch a game together, draw something or go for a walk. Take time to relax and see if that makes a difference.

When should I seek more help?

Unsure if you need to seek more help for your child? Read this:

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