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Healthy Habits

Signs your child may need professional help coping with stress

Strong emotions may require support from a professional.
3 min read
April 15, 2021
Susan O'Neill
Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner
Susan has experience in cardiovascular intensive care, urgent care, and family practice. She believes children are the future, and we must protect, provide, and nourish their minds, bodies, and spirits.

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During stress awareness month, our care experts have discussed how stress can impact physical and mental health and shared quick strategies families can adopt to manage stress. This week’s article explains how parents can determine if their child needs professional help coping with stress. If you are concerned about your child’s behaviors, you can always reach out to their pediatrician or contact Hazel for more information. 

Day-to-day stress, like the stress our team discussed in Understanding Stress, is very common for people of all ages. Families can manage most daily stress by adopting the types of strategies our doctors discussed in Top Tips to Help Your Child Manage Stress. However, sometimes stress can be severe. Traumatic experiences, such as violence, the loss of a family member, a natural disaster, or a pandemic, can have an intense emotional impact and cause high levels of stress. 

The response to a traumatic event will differ based on each individual’s age, personality, and experiences, as well as family and community circumstances.  Some children might feel immediately overwhelmed by fear and anxiety, or they may grow angry over an extended period. These types of strong emotions can impact physical and mental wellbeing and may require support from a professional. 

If your child has sudden changes in behavior, they may be struggling with severe distress. Signs to watch for can include:

Sleep issues: Having nightmares, trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep

Poor school performance: Receiving unusually bad grades, wanting to stay home from school, or getting into trouble at school

Returning to outgrown behaviors: Behaving in ways that seem more appropriate for a much younger child, such as wetting the bed or thumb-sucking

Extreme sadness: Crying often or throwing tantrums

Separation anxiety: Acting "clingy" or having trouble separating from parents or other loved ones

Unexplained aches: Complaining more frequently of headaches, stomach pain, nausea, chest pain, or other physical problems

Changes in diet: Eating too much or not enough

Indifference: Disobeying usual family rules and neglecting normal responsibilities

Excessive irritation: Acting in a hostile manner toward others or fighting more with brothers and sisters

Loss of interest: Refusing to take part in usual activities and friendships

Acting out: Abusing alcohol or drugs or engaging in other dangerous or risky behavior

If the behaviors listed above last for weeks or months or seem to interfere with daily life, you should consider seeking help from a professional. This can include your child’s pediatrician, school nurse, or school counselor. Your child’s doctor can help determine if they need further evaluation or help develop a treatment plan.

During times of extreme stress, some young people may have thoughts of suicide. If you are concerned that your child or teen is in crisis, get immediate help:

Call 911

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English 

1-888-628-9454 for Spanish.

Knowing the signs that your child may need help coping with stress is the first step to getting them help. If Hazel is available in your school, you can reach out to schedule a visit. Our doctors can help connect your family to the right help. You can also access additional mental and emotional resources on our weekly blog, or listed below:

Child and Adolescent Mental Health

Parents and Caregivers: Guide for Mental Health

How to help children and teens manage their stress

Stress Warning Signs in Children

CDC Resources on Helping Children Cope

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Parent Story
A father was concerned when his son was showing COVID-19 symptoms. His school uses Hazel, so he was able to contact a Hazel doctor from home.

The Hazel provider recommended he get a COVID-19 test and shared resources to help find a testing center in their area. The father was eager to help his son feel better and appreciated being able to quickly get answers and advice.
Nurse Story
A student came into the nurse's office with a sprained ankle. After icing her foot, she still was in pain, so the nurse called Hazel. Thankfully, her family had provided consent for over-the-counter pain relief because she was able to take some medicine and return to class feeling better.

After the visit, the Hazel provider reached out to the school nurse to check on the student’s injury. The nurse shared that the student’s ankle was improving, and she appreciated the follow-up.
Parent Story
A mother noticed her son was getting low on his asthma medication. She tried to schedule a visit with his doctor to refill his prescription, but no appointments were available. She didn’t want her son to run out of medicine, so she reached out to Hazel.

The provider was able to send the refill to a local pharmacy within one day. The mother was happy that her son would have the medicine he needed. She was also amazed at how easy and fast the entire process was.
Student Story
A student was coughing and sneezing a lot, but her family wasn’t sure if she was sick or had allergies. Thankfully, her school used Hazel, and they could get an answer.

After talking with the school nurse and the Hazel provider about her symptoms and medical history, the student was happy to find out it was likely allergies. She got some medicine and returned to class feeling better.
Student Story
During the pandemic, a high school student was having a hard time coping. She was sad about COVID-19 impacting her senior year, and she was worried about the state of the world. The student was also struggling with some personal conflicts, and she felt she didn't have the right support at home. After discussing her feelings, a Hazel doctor connected her with resources that she described as “life-changing.” She was very grateful and shared that she didn't know where to go for help before Hazel.
Parent Story
Shortly after COVID-19 began, a student began to develop tics. Her parents took her to a neurologist, but they wanted to get her into counseling as well. The student’s mother was having a hard time finding answers to her questions and didn’t know where to start the process, so she turned to Hazel.

The Hazel doctor listened as the mother shared her concerns and frustrations. Hazel reassured her that they would find the right services for her child. After the initial visit, the Hazel doctor partnered with the school counselor and the student’s mother to identify resources and counseling services that are a good fit.
Student Story
A student came into the nurse’s office because his vision went blurry. The Hazel doctor looked at his eyes, but he did not see any injury. As he asked him questions about his symptoms, he started to sense that he was down about something. After a few minutes, the student shared that he was really sad because his mom was recently diagnosed with cancer. He explained that he feels worried, and it’s hard for him to focus.

Hazel called home, and the student’s mother confirmed her diagnosis. They discussed how to help manage the child’s stress, and Hazel offered to connect the child with counseling resources through the school. The mother was very grateful for the guidance and was eager to get her child help during a stressful time.
Counselor Story
Hazel Health has been integral this year in getting our students the mental health services needed to help them live healthy lives.  The staff has been attentive, prompt, and resourceful. There is an evident sense of caring for the work they do and the students they serve. It has been a pleasure partnering with Hazel Health in providing mental wellness for our Garland ISD families.