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Monday, March 8, 2021

Surprising Signs of Stress in Kids

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Amy Anzilotti
Amy Anzilotti
Dr. Amy Wagner Anzilotti is a Board Certified Pediatrician living in Wilmington, DE with her husband and three school age children. She publishes the blog, Dr. Amy Kids, and you can find her on Facebook.

We live in a fast-paced, busy world and just like we are stressed out, our children feel stress too. In the frenzy of school, play dates, family obligations and after school activities, it can be easy to miss the more subtle signs of stress in our children. Most children cannot verbalize when they feel stressed so we need to be vigilant in recognizing and decreasing stress in our children. Read on for surprising signs of stress in children and some resources on what to do if you feel that your child is stressed.

1.  Headaches

If your child complains of headaches more than a few times or has a severe headache, you should see your pediatrician. You can work together to see what is causing the headaches and if stress is a contributor.

2.  Drastic Change in Appetite

Although children’s appetites can vary from day to day, if you notice drastic changes or sudden changes in weight, you should discuss possible causes, including stress, with your pediatrician.

3.  Changes in Sleep Patterns

Sleeping more or less than usual, early morning wake ups or nightmares can be signs that your child is stressed. Keep a log for two weeks and if the sleep patterns seem erratic, talk to your pediatrician.

4.  Various Aches and Pains

Recurrent abdominal pain, chronic vague complaints of pain, frequent complaints of fatigue can all be signs of stress. Of course, they can also be a sign that something is physically wrong so if your child has frequent complaints of discomfort, they should be evaluated by your pediatrician.

5.  Pulling Hair Out

Although hair twirling can just be an annoying habit, it can also sometimes be a sign of stress in children. If you notice your child frequently twirling their hair, if you notice parts of the scalp with less hair, if you are finding tufts of their hair around the house, you should see your pediatrician.

6.  Pulling Away From Family or Friends

All of us check out occasionally but if you feel like your child is consistently disengaged or losing interest in activities and friends, this should be a red flag that something is on your child’s mind. Try asking open-ended questions and listening without judgement.  If you feel like your child is not opening up, you should see a therapist or your pediatrician.

7.   Falling Grades

If your former A student is now a C student, you should investigate the cause. Many factors can cause a child’s grades to fall including stress, learning differences or a medical issue. Work with your pediatrician to figure out the cause.

8.  Bedwetting

Bedwetting regularly in a child who was formerly dry should prompt a visit to the pediatrician to rule out medical or psychological factors.

9.  Overreacting to Small Inconveniences

When you are stressed, EVERYTHING seems like a big deal. If you feel that your child is consistently bothered by seemingly small inconveniences, have a discussion with your child to see what is on their mind. If the reactions continue or you see other signs of stress or anxiety in your child, see your pediatrician.

10.  Teeth Grinding

Although grinding can be related to teeth alignment, some children grind their teeth as a response to stress. If you think your child is grinding his/her teeth, see your dentist who can verify if your child’s grinding is related to a dental issue. If not, consider stress as a trigger and discuss with your pediatrician.

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