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Stress

Communicating with Kids Series - How do I Recognize Stress and Anxiety in My Children

December 7, 2018     By Boys Town Contributor

Child Development, Communicating with Children, Communicating with Kids, Connecting with Kids, Connecting with Teens, Parent-Child Relationships

Communicating with Kids is a seven-part series on how parents can better communicate with children of all ages. Each month we pose a specific question about communication to a variety of our Boys Town experts: from the Boys Town Center for Behavioral Health® to the Boys Town Common Sense Parenting® program and many who serve the Boys Town National Hotline®.

Part 3

What tips would you give to parents to recognize stress and anxiety in their children?

K-3rd Grade

A key is to recognize how your child normally behaves. A noticeable difference in the child's behavior may indicate there is a problem. Keep in mind every child is different and their responses to stress will be different. When children are stressed or anxious, their behaviors may look different from how adults react to stress. Some children giggle when they feel uncomfortable, others are instantly angry at everything and some children withdraw and isolate themselves.

Bridget Barnes, Director, Boys Town's Common Sense Parenting

4th-8th Grade

Be on the lookout for changes in the fundamentals of how your child usually behaves. One huge sign is focus, meaning a child seems more distracted than usual. Other signs to look for include:

  • change in academic performance
  • increase in irritability, anger or reactivity
  • not completing chores, tasks or school assignments
  • being withdrawn or tearful
  • being lethargic or fatigued (likely from lack of sleep)

All these are sudden changes in behavior and performance that signal stress and anxiety might be a problem. Once detected, you can talk to your child and help resolve or lessen whatever is troubling them.

Julie Almquist, Manager, Boys Town Behavioral Health Clinic

9th-12th Grade (Teens)

Many teens today are faced with issues and pressures that can cause them great stress and anxiety. Some tell-tale signs a teen might be struggling can include:

  • A teen begins isolating. For example, instead of hanging out with and interacting with fiends as usual, a teen might withdraw, become quiet and be distracted.
  • A teen begins turning in assignments late at school or not at all when in the past they have been well done and handed in on time.
  • A teen feels the need to take frequent breaks in school or at home. It may almost seem they are escaping the structure or are physically ill.
  • A teen's body language – e.g., reluctance to give eye-contact or posture that appears tired and weak.
  • Sometimes self-care and hygiene are neglected.
  • Emotions are very near the surface as evidenced by crying easily, angering quickly and overreacting to situations.

Catching signs of distress as early as possible is a key to helping teens get back on the right path.

Pat Thomas, Boys Town National Hotline Crisis Counselor

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