Childhood stress can be caused by any situation that requires a person to adapt or change. The situation often produces anxiety. Stress may be caused by positive changes, such as starting a new activity, but it is most commonly linked with negative changes such as illness or death in the family.
Stress is a response to any situation or factor that creates a negative emotional or physical change or both. People of all ages can experience stress. In small quantities, stress is good -- it can motivate you and help you be more productive. However, excessive stress can interfere with life, activities, and health. Stress can affect the way people think, act, and feel.
Children learn how to respond to stress by what they have seen and experienced in the past. Most stresses experienced by children may seem insignificant to adults, but because children have few previous experiences from which to learn, even situations that require small changes can have enormous impacts on a child's feelings of safety and security.
Pain, injury, and illness are major stressors for children. Medical treatments produce even greater stress. Recognition of parental stress (such as that seen in divorce or financial crisis) is a severe stressor for children, as is death or loss of a loved one.
SIGNS OF UNRESOLVED STRESS IN CHILDREN
Children may not recognize that they are stressed. Parents may suspect that the child is excessively stressed if the child has experienced a potentially stressful situation and begins to have symptoms such as:
HOW PARENTS CAN HELP
Parents can help children respond to stress in healthy ways. Following are some tips:
WHAT CHILDREN CAN DO TO RELIEVE STRESS
An open, accepting flow of communication in families helps to reduce anxiety and depression in children. Encourage your children to discuss their emotions and help them discuss simple ways to change the stressful situation or their response to it.
Below are some tips that children can follow themselves to help reduce stress:
Fear in children; Anxiety in children; Childhood stress
Larzelere MM, Jones GN. Stress and Health. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice. December 2008;35(4).
Updated by: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc. Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine.
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