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Ten Signs Your Child's Stress Level May Be Too High

stress stress in children May 31, 2022

Young students often do not have the words to identify how they are feeling. Older students may not feel comfortable sharing their struggles. It is up to parents to pay attention to subtle changes that may indicate distress. In addition, addressing anxiety early can prevent a full-blown crisis.

As a psychologist and a parent, I know how hard it can be to stay mindful of the struggles and changes your child is experiencing. I hope the information below will support you in recognizing the early signs of anxiety and provide you with tools to help your child and sustain inner peace for your family.




1. Changes in appetite. Stressed students may often have changes in their appetite. For example, they may overeat or eat too little. Watch for signs your child’s eating habits have changed.


2. Withdrawal from activities and friends. If your child is not interacting with friends, you should ask why. They may need you to help your child reach out to friends and set up in-person or virtual dates. If your child is showing unusual signs of withdrawal from regular family interaction as well, there is a good chance they are experiencing emotional upset.


3. Irritability and impatience. If your child behaves in ways not in line with the person you have always known, this may indicate elevated stress. For example, is your child exhibiting anger, impatience, or acting with passive aggression? However, increases in these behaviors are not unusual in adolescents.


4. Bedwetting. This sign only applies if bedwetting is a new issue. This could be a sign of stress. Children who sleep late or eat unhealthy snacks may be more prone to exhibiting this problem when stressed.


5. Sleep problems. Students who are stressed could suffer from sleep problems. They may oversleep, may have issues sleeping, or may even have nightmares.


6. Attempts to get out of schoolwork. Suppose your student is usually interested and engaged in schoolwork and starts to show signs of being reluctant to do their work. In that case, this may be a sign they are stressed. Rather than chastising, ask them why they are not eager to do it themselves.


7. Unusual and unexplained crying spells. Is your child bursting into tears? Is your child very emotional about issues that would usually not impact your child in that way? This could be a sign of stress.


8. Stomach aches and digestive problems, and other new physical symptoms unrelated to illness or allergies can be a sign of stress.


9. Excessive worry and negative thoughts can be a sign of stress. Some fear during transitions, like the beginning of the school year, is expected. Still, children, especially young ones, naturally laugh and play even during stressful times. If your child is only worrying and not playing, they may be stressed.


10. A drop in grades can be a sign of stress and can further compound stress. Some students are very concerned about grades and their parent’s reactions to their scores. Please remember that if a student is stressed, criticizing performance will not help. Your child needs support.



The first step in helping a student who’s dealing with stress is to recognize the symptoms. Once you have, here are a few ways to help your child:


1. Discuss your concern with your child’s teacher.


2. Communicate with your child. Listen to their concerns and provide support.


3. Reach out to the school guidance counselor or social worker if you concern that your child needs additional support. Anxious students may be eligible for accommodations to support them in school.


4. Work to help your child form social connections in person and through technology.


5. Take walks with your child or put on some fast dance music and dance together. Movement can help reduce stress.


6. Take time to rest and relax as a family. Play a board game, watch a funny show, do a puzzle, or color together.


7. Ask for help. Contact your source for psychological or medical guidance. Call a support hotline like The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)


Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).