Stress. This is a word that we, as adults, often use to describe our state of mind. From workplace stress to home life, and added everyday stressors in between, we often feel overwhelmed. But did you know that our kids feel stress, too? While their causes of stress are different than ours, it is important to know that stressors in children can lead to a compromised immune system or erratic and unusual behaviors.
What exactly is stress? As defined by The American Institute of Stress, it is your body’s non-specific response to any demand for change. There is no one correct definition however; stress is a relative term and differs according to each person. It also is different in children, and sometimes kids don’t know what they’re feeling is actually stress. There are multiple types of stress; both good and bad. This is surprising to many, as stress is most commonly associated with a negative connotation.
Stress that stems from negative or undesirable events is called “distress.” This is short term, such as an accident, making a deadline or perhaps starting a new school. The body activates your fight or flight system, which is what helps us get through in those often hard times. For children, realizing they may be experiencing stressful situations is important in helping them regulate their emotions. The second type of negative stress is “chronic stress,” and this occurs when the body’s natural fight or flight system shuts down and keeps the body in a constant state of elevated emotions. Finally there is a good stress. This is known as “eustress.” When we go through stages of eustress, typically events such as having a baby, making a new friend or meeting a new teacher can trigger this feeling.
As a parent, guardian or caregiver it is important to look for the following signs to see if stress could be affecting your child:
• Decreased appetite, other changes in eating habits
• New or recurrent bedwetting
• Sleep disturbances
• Upset stomach or vague stomach pain
• Other physical symptoms with no physical illness
• Anxiety, worry
• Not able to relax
• New or recurring fears (fear of the dark, fear of being alone, fear of strangers)
• Clinging, unwilling to let you out of sight
• Anger, crying, whining
• Not able to control emotions
• Aggressive or stubborn behavior
• Going back to behaviors present at a younger age
• Doesn’t want to participate in family or school activities
If you think stress is affecting your child, contact A Kidz Clinic for more information at 970-874-2753.
Makenna Hart, MS, is the clinic coordinator at A Kidz Clinic. **This information is factual and was taken from the American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Institute of Stress and the U.S. Library of Medicine.