Stress can be positive or negative, and children experience both kinds.
Positive stress can motivate children and cause them to explore new things—like the excitement of trying out for a sports team or going on a trip.
Negative stress may make children feel overwhelmed. It may cause problems unless children learn ways to cope with it.
Causes of negative stress in children can include difficult events, such as death or divorce. But even positive events, such as a new sibling or new home, can cause children to feel overwhelmed.
Stress can also be caused by children’s everyday, ordinary activities.
These might include interacting with peers, taking tests, or going through physical and emotional changes.
Parents should watch children for signs of stress. These may include:
• Not getting along well with other people, especially in the child’s age group.
• A drastic drop in grades.
• A serious change in behavior — if a cheerful, happy child becomes sullen or withdrawn.
• Physical symptoms — such as chronic headaches or stomachaches, a racing heartbeat, nightmares, bedwetting, nail-biting, or poor eating.
A child who shows more than one of these signs may need help. Recognizing stress in children is an important first step in reducing its impact.