Childhood Stress: Triggers, Symptoms And How Parents Can Help


Childhood stress is emerging as one of the common health concerns among today’s children. With the compulsive need to excel, emphasis on competing in every aspect of life and peer pressure, children are predisposed to varying degree of stress, anxiety and fear. Childhood stress can be caused by any situation that requires the child to adapt or change. Stress in children may be a result of a positive change like taking up a new activity but most of the times it is linked to negative changes in environment. A human being learns how to respond to stress on the basis of past experiences and since children have very few such experiences to reflect upon, even small changes can have significant impact on children.


-The major contributing factors for stress in childhood are pain, injury, academic pressure and illness.

-Undergoing certain medical treatments can produce even greater stress.

-Being bullied at school, home or in the neighborhood can cause stress and anxiety.

– Parental stress such as divorce or financial crisis is a severe stress trigger for children.

– Death or the loss of a loved one can also trigger stress in children.


-Children may not realize that they are stressed. It is the parents who can suspect if their child is going through a stressful phase.

-Children with stress start showing physical and emotional or behavioral symptoms.

Physical symptoms of stress include changes in eating habits, loss of appetite, frequent headaches, bed-wetting, increased episodes of nightmares, disturbed sleep, stuttering, unexplained abdominal pain.

Behavioral changes include being anxious all the times, worrying too much, being unable to relax, fear such as of dark, of being alone or fear of strangers, unwillingness to let go of a parent, bouts of anger, frequent episodes of crying or sobbing, emotional outbursts, aggressive or stubborn behavior and lack of willingness to participate in any social or school activity.


Parents can help their children cope with stress and anxiety by acknowledging the problem and helping them deal with it in a healthy manner:

1 . Give Them A Secure Home

The first and foremost thing can parents can do to ensure mental and emotional health of the children is by providing them a safe, secure, consistent, happy and dependable home.

2 . Supervise Their TV And Internet Access

Be watchful of what you child is exposed to on the television as well as the internet. This includes entertainment, news, games and other broadcasts. Certain TV shows and games can produce fear, anxiety and stress in children. Keep them away from violence, too much aggression and use of harsh language.

3 . Spend Time With Them

Make sure you spend quality time with your children. Encourage them to ask questions, create a comfortable environment for them where they feel free to discuss any concern with you.

4 . Be A Listener

One of the best ways to make your child confide more and more in you is by being a good listener. Do not be judgmental or critical about their opinions or apprehensions, but just listen to them without interrupting them. This will give them a sense that they are being heard and that they can express their feelings without being judged.

5 . Boost Their Confidence

Build your child’s feelings of self-worth. Use encouragement and affection. Try to involve your child in situations where he or she can succeed. Try to use positive encouragement and reward instead of punishment.

6 . Do Not Burden Them With Academic Pressure

Each child is different and gifted with different skills and talents. To use the same yardstick for judging each and every child is very unfair to the child. The need to excel in academics and unrealistic pressure from peers and family can be detrimental to the mental and physical well-being of a child. Give your child the freedom to flourish and enjoy their academic curriculum instead of pushing them to achieve a certain academic goal. Emphasize of learning rather than scoring and create an intellectual and balanced environment at home where you encourage and assist them in their academics without judging or pushing them

7 . Let Them Choose For Themselves

Give your child the opportunity to make choices over little things in life and have control over their day to day life. This could include the breakfast they choose, kind of sport they want to take up, the hobby that they want to pursue, the activities that they find stressful and want to give up. Just let them make their own choices.This is particularly important, because research shows that the more people feel they have control over a situation, the better their response to stress will be.

8 . Partner With Them For Any Physical Activity

Let them chose any sport or physical activity that they like and engage with them in an active or passive way. By being physically active their body will release happy hormones that will help them fight stress and at the same time keep them fit and healthy.

9 . Make Them Aware

Develop awareness of situations and events that are stressful for children. These include new experiences, fear of unpredictable outcomes, unpleasant sensations, unmet needs or desires, and loss.

10 . Seek Professional Help

If you think that despite your efforts, your child is still showing signs of unresolved stress, seek help from a child psychologist.

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Childhood stress is a real and serious health concern and if your child or any child you know is showing signs of stress, anxiety or fear you should consult a child psychologist to assess the mental and physical well- being of the child and help him/her cope with it in a better way. Stay Healthy, Stay Happy!

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