Have you been noticing a drop in your child’s performance at school, or when you try to discuss it, he is avoiding you altogether? Moreover, you observe that he is being forgetful, evasive, and has started to show a few telltale signs that make you doubt if he is under tremendous stress. Then your instincts may be right.
Students as young as kindergarten may also experience stress and anxiety, but can rarely express it. Even older kids are reluctant to speak about it but indirectly hint to that fact. It is your responsibility as parents to find out the real cause for concern and make efforts to reduce it. Acting in a timely manner can help kids become productive, attentive, and in a nutshell, a happier version of themselves.
If you notice these below red flags, take them as warning signs that your child is stressed about school.
1. Eating Habits
One of the most easily recognized patterns is a drastic change in your kid’s eating habits. When going through a deeply stressful situation, children compensate by eating very less or resort to comfort foods. Either lack of appetite or excessive binge eating can point to the fact that some issues are worrying them.
2. Extreme Mood Swings
It is natural to be upset when things do not go your way. But if you sense that your child is being overly sensitive or taking everything to heart, then you need to intervene. His moods may go from one extreme to the other within seconds. Severe mood swings may be the result of a heavy workload at school or a spat with a close friend.
3. Increased Aggression
Showing unwarranted and exaggerated reactions that are not in your child’s usual nature may occur due to an extended problem. If he is getting frustrated by even little things like unable to find a solution to one of his homework questions, then there could be an underlying reason. Besides, there may be episodes of increased aggression, either verbal or physical, such as name-calling or fistfights.
4. Getting Clingy
Your child may latch onto you or follow you everywhere, and leaving you no room for yourself. Taking a complete U-turn in their routine behavior, they suddenly get clingy and seek your attention at all times. This behavior can appear after a major transition or event that happened in recent times, like moving to a new place, school, or parents getting separated. It also could be their way of trying to feel secure and wanted.
5. Being Withdrawn
On the other end of the spectrum, some children exhibit the opposite behavior to parents’ divorce, bullying at school, or other issues. Instead of getting closer to their parents, children may withdraw themselves into a cocoon or a shell. They blame themselves and do not even speak to anyone or join in their once-favorite activities, let alone share their feelings. They curl up on the couch or get buried in books, movies, smartphones, or video games.
6. Sleeping Disorders
Fear of sleeping in the dark may be typical for younger kids, but if your child has suddenly developed sleep-related issues, nightmares, or other disorders, it could be a response to a traumatic experience. Feelings of loneliness or abandonment may cause an unreasonable fear of being alone at night. They may refuse to sleep in their bed or stay awake for a longer period, way past their bedtime.
7. Worrying and Paranoia
A good amount of stress helps push children to be competitive. Healthy worry about their grades or performance in sports or other activities can even be encouraged. However, when the pressure to do beyond their best gets to them, they become emotionally weak. Excessive stress, anxiety, and worry about the outcome sometimes turn into paranoia.
8. Physical Effects
Frequent physical ailments like headaches, infections, or stomach aches are psychosomatic symptoms of stress. Anxiety also manifests as regressive behavior like consistent bed-wetting, thumb sucking, and nail-biting. However, in case your child is missing toileting cues, you may need to rule out any medical condition before you come to this conclusion.
9. Hyperactive Behavior
They may start fidgeting, tapping their feet while sitting, being disobedient, or trembling. Resorting to these traits allow them to release their pent-up energy, which they cannot handle. Boredom in their school, a mundane routine, and unchallenged curriculum lead to the developments of such behavior. These can also happen if the child has ADHD or other issues, and hence, consulting a professional to get to the root cause may be a good idea.
10. Lack of Enthusiasm and Focus
Trouble concentrating on schoolwork or focusing on simple tasks at home can indicate a decreased motivation. Lack of sufficient time may increase their stress levels, and they cannot manage their priorities. Over-scheduling may result in a complete lack of enthusiasm in all of the ordinary activities.
How Can You Help Relieve Your Child’s Stress
Once you suspect that your child is a victim of excessive stress, find out ways to get them to open up to you. Make them feel loved and understood, invest in quality family time, and encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings.
Sometimes, kids mirror their parents; so check yourself if you have been managing your stress well, or if that is affecting them. But whatever you do, do not pressure them to behave them a certain way, or assign blame on them.