Is my child feeling stressed?

By Joachim Lee, Principal Psychotherapist, EMCC

It’s exam time and you’re worried about your children. How are they coping? Your son seems to be on his computer all the time. Your daughter seems to be always on the phone talking to her friends. Neither is talking to you. So how can you tell if they’re under stress? Here are some tips on what to look out for.

  • Marked changes in behaviour

Has there been a marked change in their behaviour? For instance, is your child eating excessively or refusing to eat? Has your child who normally spends a lot of time chatting or being with his friends now spending most of his time alone? The pandemic has reduced the opportunities for physical get-togethers, so this may be more difficult to detect. Try asking your kids about how specific friends are doing. If they say they don’t know, then it could be a clue they have withdrawn from their friends.

  • More reactive to normal stressors

Does your daughter seem to be getting irritated by more things? Is your son losing his temper more easily over things that didn’t used to bother him? It could be over anything from the way a dinner dish wasn’t cooked to his liking or the bus being late. If these outbursts are happening more often, the youngsters could be under stress.

  • Changes in sleep pattern

Are they sleeping fewer hours? Have they complained about not being to fall asleep? This is another common sign of stress.

  • Increase in absenteeism

If your child is finding excuses to skip school or getting up late every morning to go to school, this could also be a sign of stress.

  • Distracted in class

This is something you may need to check with the school. Is your son having difficulties concentrating in class? Does your daughter seem distracted during class? 

  • “Acting out” behaviours

If your child is “acting out”, he could be trying to release stress. Under intense stress, acting out behaviour includes throwing oneself on the floor, hitting/ hurting oneself physically, slamming doors or picking a fight for no apparent reason. These are all inappropriate behaviours that your child may exhibit in an uncontrolled manner, in trying to cope with stress.

In cases of extreme stress, the child may start talking about or become obsessed with death.

These are just a few examples of inappropriate coping. I hope you find this useful. If you’re not sure how your child is coping, please do reach out and seek professional help.

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