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10 signs of stress in kids

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

A child's life may seem simple - no work, no bills, no responsibility but kids of all ages still get stressed.

When they learn new skills or have fresh experiences they may feel a certain amount of stress, which is normal and is a part of learning, but other aspects of a child's life can cause anxiety.

Sometimes a child's anxiety can be debilitating. There are a whole range of anxiety disorders that affect children, like separation anxiety, generalised anxiety and school phobia.

More often than not though it's the everyday pressures children face which lead to emotional blips in their world which can be spotted and hopefully dealt with.

"Most children and young people have anxiety at some point but if a child gets the right support there's no need to worry it'll lead to serious anxiety disorders or a lifetime of mental health issues," says Nicky Lidbetter, chief executive of Anxiety UK.

Just like with adults, major life changes like bereavement, divorce and moving house can lead to stress, but some children also find it hard to deal with the pressure of tests and exams, friendship issues and having to live up to parental expectations.

Check out these 10 possible signs of childhood stress:

1. Change in behaviour

If you can't quite put your finger on it, but you know there's something different about the way your child is acting, it may be a sign of stress.

"It may be a change in behaviour, something out of character that a parent picks up on that lasts too long, say for several weeks," says Janey Downshire, who co-runs Teenagers Translated and is a specialist in young people's development.

2. Worrying

If your child seems to be worrying about things and showing signs of being anxious about situations more than usual, this may indicate they have something on their mind.

"There is a long list of things that kids worry about which to us as adults may seem trivial. With little ones, don't dismiss or laugh at their fear, take them seriously, give lots of cuddles and reassurance," says chartered psychologist Elaine Douglas.

Children often bite their nails and this may be a habit or it could be a sign of worrying. If your child doesn't usually bite or has chewed them down to the quick, there may be an underlying reason.

3. Showing aggression

If your child is being overly aggressive it's a cause for concern. If they are stressed or worried about something at school they may take it out on their siblings at home.

It could be hormonal changes, for example a surge in testosterone in boys which is making them more physical. But if they are being nasty with it, it may be stress-related.

"When some children have anxiety and they are struggling with their thoughts it can come out as irritability, anger and frustration," says Nicky.

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