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 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: