One of the most obvious signals of stress is a change in your child's behavior. If she stops being outgoing and becomes introverted and nervous, something is bothering her. Other signs of stress include: a new, intense clinginess; an unexpected fear of new situations; changes in her eating, sleeping, or bowel habits; a withdrawal from activities that she used to enjoy; stubborn or provocative behavior.
If your child is in the early stages of a bad cold or virus, she may show some of these same symptoms. But if the problem is merely physical, she should go back to her old, cheerful self as soon as she recovers.
Causes Of Stress
The causes of stress in your child's life can vary; some you will be able to prevent or lessen; others you may not be able to control. Some stress is caused by disruptions in family situations, such as loss of a job, divorce, remarriage, money problems, illness, moving to a new home, or the birth of a sibling. Other stresses might include starting at a new school or a new activity, taking a developmental step forward (such as becoming toilet-trained), sleeping over at a babysitter's or grandma's for the first time, not having enough time to relax and play in an unstructured way.
If your child shows signs of being under stress, it's important to recognize her behavior as her way of calling for help. She won't come to you and say, I'm under a lot of pressure and feeling very stressed. Instead she'll act out her feelings. Try to pinpoint the problem. Is it something you can control? You might have to change your plans to allow more family time and less separation. Give your child the chance to regress a bit until she feels more in control of her situation.
Overscheduling Can Cause Stress
If your child's stress comes from an overscheduled life, take steps to simplify her weekly routine. Many experts feel that special classes and drills are not appropriate for young children. Your child should be free to play, experiment, and make mistakes; avoid pushing her to learn how to read early or take structured art or dance lessons at a very young age. Pushing a child to achieve can turn her off to the activity rather than making her excel. Even play dates and play groups can make some children feel under pressure. Be sensitive to your child's reactions; she can work her way up to a full schedule over time.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.