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Stress and Children

|Parents And Guardians - Are You Aware Articles
Niki Smidt

August 10, 2010

As adults, we deal with many “stressors” in our daily lives. But, did you know the stress we go through can impact our children as well? In addition, children can face their own stressors and we, as parents, may not even realize it.

There are different life events that may cause your child to carry stress. These might include starting a new school or child care program, a pending move, welcoming a new sibling, making new friends or adjusting to a new home life. The absence of a parent through separation, divorce, military deployment or death may also trigger stress. No matter what stress your child is facing, you will want to help him or her through it.

We’ve listed some behaviors below that you might see as a result of the stress your child is feeling, as well as what you can do to help your child through the stressful times.

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Trembling with fright
  • Eating or sleep problems
  • Regression to infant behaviors
  • Sadness or Anger
  • Withdrawn
  • Experience nightmares
  • Become accident prone

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Services encourage teaching children positive coping strategies. This can be accomplished through a variety of items referred to as a safety net. Here are a few examples:

  • A healthy relationship with at least one parent or adult
  • Well-developed social and problem solving skills
  • Having a special hobby or interest

Be someone your child can lean on, regardless of his/her age. Here are some ways to help your child cope with stress:

  • Notice your child
  • Praise him/her
  • Acknowledge their feelings
  • Teach your child how to view the situation in a more positive way
  • Teach children how to cope with stress in a healthy way
  • Find time to talk with your child

Signs of stress in younger children
Adapted from “Helping Children Cope with Stress” by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/fcs/pdfs/fcs457.pdf.

Other Resources

Stress and Young Children

Kid’s Health - Childhood Stress

Prepare Respond Recover

Center on Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning


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