Just as adults can suffer emotional and physical problems due to unresolved stress, so can children. Although the problems that children and teenagers face may seem inconsequential to parents, those problems are real and sometimes overwhelming in the mind of a young person.
How can a parent know if the stress their child is experiencing is normal, or if the stress has reached a level where their child needs professional help in learning how to deal with the stress? What are the signs that a child or teen’s stress level has reached a concerning point?
Here are some signs parents can look for as they work to monitor their child’s level of stress.

Watch for Long-Term Behavioral Changes

Everyone – including your child – suffers from occasional moodiness or anger. However, if you are noticing long-term changes in your child’s mood or behavior, such as increasing or long-standing anger, irritability, disobedience, sadness or quietness, it might be time to talk with your child to identify what might be bothering them.
Remember that children are often reluctant to open up to adults and that they may not give you the answers you’re looking for right away. Forming a close relationship to your child in which they are confident that they can trust you not to be judgmental or to overreact, and creating a relationship in which your child is comfortable sharing their deepest feelings with you is key to getting them to open up.
This can take time if that type of a relationship isn’t already formed, so remember to be patient as you look for answers to your child’s behavioral changes.

Look for Hidden Messages

If you’ve noticed that your child is complaining more frequently of health problems, asking to stay home from school or is unwilling to take part in activities that he or she usually enjoys, they may be dealing with overwhelming stress levels.
The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that “stress can also appear in physical symptoms such as stomach aches and headaches. If a child makes excessive trips to the school nurse or complains of frequent stomachaches or headaches (when they have been given a clean bill of health by their physician), or if these complaints increase in certain situations (e.g., before a big test) that child may be experiencing significant stress.”
If your child is experiencing an increase in minor physical maladies – especially before a stressful event such as a test at school or a family move – it may be a sign that your child is experiencing significant stress. However, it’s important in these situations to visit a doctor to rule out other potential health problems before assessing the problem as stress related.
Other hidden messages that your child may be feeling overwhelmed by the level of stress in their lives include sudden changes in friendships, a drastic increase in screen time (as a way to try and “shut out” stress) or drastic and long-term increases or decreases in appetite.
Look for these hidden messages in your child or teen and encourage them to work with you to diagnose what might be behind these subtle changes in their lives.

When to Seek Professional Help

Sometimes a child’s stress level has gotten to a point where they can’t manage it on their own or with a parent’s help. If – despite your attempts to help your child or teen manage their stress level in a healthy way – your child simply cannot seem to shake the overwhelming feelings of stress or the behavioral changes triggered by the stress, it may be time to seek the help of a trusted professional.
This can be especially important if your child or teen has experienced a recent life-changing event such as a move, the divorce of parents or other major life change.
Professional psychologists and counselors have been educated in specialized training that helps people uncover the root of significant stress and input strategies that will aid them in overcoming and eliminating feelings of stress.
If your child or teen is experiencing signs of overwhelming stress, contact a professional counselor in your area today to discuss ways you can give your child the help and support they need to overcome the stressful emotions they’re suffering from.
Dr. Keller is a professional counselor who specializes in child psychology. He has experience in helping children and teens overcome many different types of stress.
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