Childhood stress is common but not easily noticed until signs, and symptoms get out of hand. It often occurs when young children feel compelled to adapt to sudden changes different from the routine such as divorce, bereavement, bullying at school, teen problems, learning difficulties, and so on. It is necessary to pay attention to the phenomenon, considering that 5% of kids aged 5 to 17 years have anxiety issues while 17% live with unmanaged mental health disorders. It all starts with parents knowing the effects of childhood stress.
Persistent complaints of upset stomach or other localized pain
When children persistently complain about pains that cannot be explained through medical means, you might be dealing with a stressed child. These vague pains may be in the stomach, lower abdominal region, head, limbs, or other body parts. As a parent or guardian, it is important to use every means to ascertain the authenticity of these pain complaints. Your stressed child may want more attention from you and feels the only way to get it is to talk about pain. This is a reality that some parents face with young kids.
Other times, however, the pain is real and not made up. It happens because cortisol (stress hormone) is released rapidly into their blood. As a result of the increased anxiety, this hormone triggers pain in the stomach or other body parts. Therefore, when your young children complain persistently of such pains, it is recommended to see the pediatrician. It is better to first rule out any medical problems before tackling the psychological and emotional side.
Nightmares and recurring fears can trigger mental health issues
The fears, doubts, and disturbing thoughts stressed kids feel in their everyday lives can be transferred into their dreams. Unfortunately, these are not sunshine and flower dreams; far from that. Nightmares become persistent and can trigger a fear of sleeping at night. A lack of quality sleep can consequently trigger headaches and eye pain. Remember that a stressed child has so much going on in their head. Therefore, if the cause of their anxiety is from recently divorced parents, their nightmares would likely be centred on being left alone with monsters chasing them.
The loneliness element is from the uncertainty they feel because of the divorce. Meanwhile, the monster in these nightmares represents the negative emotions clawing at their brains and hearts. As a parent, this can be a disturbing and difficult moment. The frequency of these nightmares may manifest in your child’s active hours. For instance, they may refuse to be left alone in their rooms. Some children may also show a disturbing, manic fear of the dark. Although most young children show nervousness in the dark, those dealing with childhood stress exhibit heightened trepidation. Fortunately, there is help as mental health institutes like The Insight Clinic have experience in dealing with child and adolescent issues. Your actions can help save your child’s mind in adulthood.
Drastic changes in what used to be a healthy eating habit
Eating habits can swing either way. A stressed child may show extreme hunger and eat everything in sight, while others lose their appetite. Naturally, children experiencing growth spurts have increased appetites and often eat more during those milestones. The concern, however, is when they eat more than necessary and do not feel satiated. Excessive hunger can be an emotional manifestation of heightened stress.
An adult living with it eats more than necessary to fill a void they perceive within. The same thing happens to young children, and it is your responsibility as a parent to make these timely observations. It would help to engage your kids in healthy conversations to get to the root cause of an over-dependence on food. Sometimes, also, the opposite happens. A persistent appetite loss means your child lacks vital nutrients to aid healthy development.
According to pediatric data, most children have full bladder control by age five. In others, this may be delayed until age seven. This, however, is during non-sleeping hours. It is believed that by age six, most children have matured central nervous systems that take over bladder control when asleep. There are variations, though. The problem is when your child has already gained full bladder control for at least six months and starts bedwetting. When it is not a medical problem with their bladder, it might be the effects of childhood stress.
If you haven’t yet discovered the source of their stress, it is better to seek help from a pediatric behavioural specialist. Notably, some kids can hide signs of stress from their parents or guardians. This occurs more often when they are bullied in school. As parents, it is critical to keep a keen eye on any changes in your children. The more you detect, the better the chances of offering timely help.