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Your Healthy Family: Signs of stress in children

Posted at 10:23 AM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 12:23:01-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — With most summer camps and family vacations canceled, this is a much different summer for many children. It's no surprise some kids are feeling unsettled and stressed out.

Doctor Frank McGeorge, MD says there are subtle warning signs that kids may give off when they may not be willing or able to verbalize their worries.

Dr. McGeorge says, “While some children can talk about their concerns, a new study finds many kids are showing physical symptoms that parents also need to watch out for. Researchers in Norway studied nearly five thousand kids between the ages of 11 and 15 and found those who reported higher levels of school-related stress were more likely to experience weekly headaches, stomach pain, backaches, or dizziness.”

Children thrive in an environment built around a structure and schedule which are also more challenging right now and knowing that stress is taking a toll can also be a challenge.

Dr. McGeorge says, “Stress can continue into the summer with normal routines still disrupted and major uncertainty around what school will be like in the fall. The signs of stress can vary by age. In toddlers, a lack of emotion or toilet training regression are common signs of stress or anxiety. Older kids may have trouble sleeping, canker sores, headaches, or complain about stomach or leg pain. Children may also be more clingy, withdrawn, angry, or agitated.”

Summer break is usually a time for kids to enjoy not having the structure of a school-day to follow, but having no schedule at all for multiple weeks can create problems. Dr. McGeorge explains, “Experts say, even in these summer months it's important to have routines and schedules, even if they're looser so that kids still know what to expect each day. Spending time outside and getting regular exercise, especially as a family, is also helpful.”

Finally, concerning the school uncertainty with many districts still trying to finalize plans for the fall, experts say to be honest but reassuring with your children about the plans being considered. Focus on the steps being made to keep them safe and remember, their worries about school, are likely not the same as yours, so ask them - don't assume.