Stress in childhood

Definition

Childhood stress can be present in any setting that requires the child to adapt or change. 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.

You can help your child by learning to recognize the signs of stress and teaching your child healthy ways to deal with it.

Information

Stress may be a response to a negative change in a child's life. In small amounts, stress can be good. But, excessive stress can affect the way a child thinks, acts, and feels.

Children learn how to respond to stress as they grow and develop. Many stressful events that an adult can manage will cause stress in a child. As a result, even small changes can impact a child's feelings of safety and security.

Pain, injury, illness, and other changes are stressors for children. Stressors may include:

SIGNS OF UNRESOLVED STRESS IN CHILDREN

Children may not recognize that they are stressed. New or worsening symptoms may lead parents to suspect an increased stress level is present.

Physical symptoms can include:

Emotional or behavioral symptoms may include:

HOW PARENTS CAN HELP

Parents can help children respond to stress in healthy ways. Following are some tips:

WHEN TO CALL THE DOCTOR

Talk to your child's healthcare provider if your child:


Review Date: 5/18/2016
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.