Stress & anxiety

At a Glance: Signs of Stress in Your Grade-Schooler

By Peg Rosen

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Stress is common among young children. It can be especially common for grade-schoolers with learning and attention issues. Here are some signs to watch for.

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At a Glance: Signs of Stress in Your Grade-Schooler

Kids with learning and attention issues may not realize they’re stressed. It’s not always easy to pick up on signs, either. Here are some red flags to watch for in your grade-schooler:

Red flag: The nurse calls to tell you your child is there again, complaining of a tummy ache. You take your child to the doctor, again, but he can’t find anything wrong
The issue: When the mind is overwhelmed, it can take a toll on the body. Physical responses to stress are common. Complaints include body pain, tiredness, headaches, and tummy aches.

Red flag: Instead of taking off for the playground monkey bars, your first grader has been sitting on the bench, fiddling with your cell phone and trying to climb on to your lap.
The issue: Kids who feel unable to cope might act fearful and lose condence. They may cling to a parent for security. Or they may go back to baby ways, such as sucking their thumb or wetting the bed.

Red flag: At homework time, your child sits there doodling or playing with her hair.
The issue: When kids get overwhelmed, they might “check out” or become “frozen” by fear of failure. Teachers may notice that they refuse to do classwork.

Red flag: The school called to say your child is having a harder time sitting still than usual. She keeps getting up to sharpen her pencil, is fidgeting, and twice stood on her chair and fell.
The issue: Stress in kids can often play out as “ants in the pants” or a change in energy level (more or less). They may also have difficulty sleeping.

Red flag: Your child asks for an afterschool snack. You take ve minutes too long to prepare it. She has a tantrum— something you haven’t seen in years.
The issue: Tantrums are an emotional response to feeling overwhelmed. It might seem that just about anything can trigger one, but it’s a sign there’s more going on.
Graphic of At a Glance: Signs of Stress in Your Grade-Schooler
Graphic of At a Glance: Signs of Stress in Your Grade-Schooler

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About the Author

Portrait of Peg Rosen

Peg Rosen writes for digital and print, including ParentCenter, WebMD, Parents, Good Housekeeping and Martha Stewart.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Elizabeth Harstad

Elizabeth Harstad, M.D., M.P.H., is a developmental behavioral pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital.

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