When it comes to helping children and teens work through mental health struggles, teaching them to manage stress is an important tool for their emotional tool belt. Young people can feel stress and not yet be able to recognize or articulate what they are experiencing, so it can be helpful for loved ones to learn what stress looks like in children and teens in order to help them.

Signs of Stress to Watch for in Your Child or Teen

Physical Discomfort: Perhaps the most recognizable sign that a child is stressed is when they say their stomach hurts. Our bodies release hormones when we are stressed, such as adrenaline or cortisol, which can often make our stomach feel funny.

Changes in Behavior: It’s common for children to have notable changes in their behavior that could indicate they’re feeling stressed. Some of these changes may include:

  • Irritability or moodiness
  • Withdrawing from loved ones
  • Acting out in certain social situations, such as school or activities
  • Regression, such as bedwetting, thumb-sucking and temper tantrums

Changes in School Performance: This is particularly true for adolescents and teens as they may experience a decline in grades or school attendance. Children who once enjoyed school may begin to complain about schoolwork, their peers, their performance, or express a general dislike of school.

Emotional Dysregulation: When children and teens experience stress, they often express other unpleasant emotions. Sometimes, they become increasingly irritable, moody, or reactive. Other times, they may show signs of extreme anxiety and/or fear that can be general or specific.

How Trusted Adults Can Help Stressed Children or Teens

Promote Good Sleep Habits: It’s recommended children ages 6-12 get 9-12 hours of sleep a night! Help kids get enough sleep by unplugging from screens and technology 30 minutes before bedtime.

Model Healthy Coping: Young people are strong observers. They notice how others in their life respond to stress and emotions. Demonstrating healthy coping skills in response to your own stress gives children an opportunity to learn how they could respond to their own stress.

Start the Conversation: Initiate the conversation about what your child is experiencing so they can gain different insights or perspectives on a stressful situation and find solutions. In these discussions, you can challenge negative thinking and introduce them to new skills to manage their stress, such as mindfulness.

Give Extra Support: Provide your child with a safe space to express themselves by being an active listener. Give them validation and understanding. Spend positive quality time together. There are many ways adults can support their child in their own unique way!

How MiraCare Can Help

With a passion for patient and family centered care, MiraCare offers a full continuum to provide every level of support to children and their families during stressful times. Our team offers level of care assessments that can help your family identify what type of therapy or treatment may be best. MiraCare offers outpatient therapy sessions with a wide array of specialties for your specific needs. For children or teens struggling to cope with a particular life stressor, our Partial Hospitalization Program can provide young people with the skills they need to successfully work through their stress. If stress has lead a child or their family to crisis, MiraCare has a 30-bed inpatient hospital designed specifically for children and teens. To learn more, call (708) 726-MIRA (6472) or contact us.

Written by:
Brit Williams of MiraCare Group
Operations Coordinator

Photo Source: National Institutes of Health https://hr.nih.gov

Additional Resources:

Mental Health
America: Stress

Mayo Clinic Health
System: Stressed
out kids? Signs and

Helping Children
Handle Stress

American Psychological
Association: How to
help children and teens
manage their stress