These days it seems like the stress on our kids is at an all-time high! Some kids are going to school, some are doing school at home. Some are able to do their activities, some are not. The uncertainty and changes can be really hard on kids and adults! Signs of stress and mental health issues are not the same for every child of every age, but there are some common symptoms. The American Academy of Pediatrics has some warning signs parents can look out for to know if their children are feeling stressed or struggling with their mental health:
Infants, toddlers, and young children…
At this age, they may show backward progress in skills and developmental milestones. They may also have increased problems with:
- fussiness and irritability, startling and crying more easily, and more difficult to console.
- falling asleep and waking up more during the night.
- feeding issues such as frantic nippling, more reflux, constipation or loose stools, or new complaints of stomach pain.
- separation anxiety, seeming more clingy, withdrawn, or hesitant to explore.
- hitting, frustration, biting, and more frequent or intense tantrums.
- bedwetting after they’re potty-trained.
- urgently expressed needs while seemingly unable to feel satisfied.
- conflict and aggression or themes like illness or death during play.
Older children may show signs of distress with symptoms such as:
- changes in mood that are not usual for your child, such as ongoing irritability, feelings of hopelessness or rage, and frequent conflicts with friends and family.
- changes in behavior, such as stepping back from personal relationships. If your ordinarily outgoing teen shows little interest in texting or video chatting with their friends, for example, this might be cause for concern.
- a loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed. Did your music-loving child suddenly stop wanting to practice guitar, for example? Did your aspiring chef lose all interest in cooking and baking?
- a hard time falling or staying asleep, or starting to sleep all the time.
- changes in appetite, weight or eating patterns, such as never being hungry or eating all the time.
- problems with memory, thinking, or concentration.
- less interest in schoolwork and drop in academic effort.
- changes in appearance, such as lack of basic personal hygiene (within reason, since many are doing slightly less grooming during this time at home).
- an increase in risky or reckless behaviors, such as using drugs or alcohol.
- thoughts about death or suicide, or talking about it.
What can you do to help?
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following guidance on things parents can do: Parents set the tone in the household. Expressing extreme doom or fear can affect your children. It can be challenging to stay positive, especially if you’re struggling with your own stress. But try to stay positive and relay consistent messages that a brighter future lies ahead. It helps to set aside time to take care of yourself when possible, and seek the support you may need for your own mental health. Practicing mindfulness, focusing on the present moment, yoga, or stretching can help the entire family build coping skills. Build in down time for the whole family to connect and relax, enjoying a nap, movie time or simply spending time together.
How can your Pediatrician help?
Pediatricians can screen for depression and ask about other concerns like anxiety or trouble coping with stress. The doctor may also ask about these symptoms in other family members, as this can impact your child’s health. Your pediatrician can give you guidance on ways to best support your child and help them build resilience. Some children or adolescents may need more time and space to express their feelings. Some may do better with gradual conversations and other activities besides talking, such as painting or drawing to express themselves and manage stress. Others might be more comfortable with direct conversations or activities. They may need to talk to a trusted adult about how to keep up social connections safely, or their feelings of boredom, loss, and even guilt. It’s important to offer your teen some privacy to talk with the pediatrician during the visit to ensure they have the chance to speak as openly as possible.
Keep lines of communication open between you and your child, and don’t hesitate to talk with your pediatrician about ways to help maintain your family’s mental health during this difficult time. If you have any questions or want to schedule a wellness exam or other appointment for your children, contact The Pediatric Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho or Rigby, Idaho. Our medical staff at The Pediatric Center currently consists of seven Board Certified Pediatricians and three Certified Pediatric Physician Assistants. We have been serving eastern Idaho for over 55 years providing quality pediatric care and offer extended hours so we can better serve your family and their health care needs.
Some content provided by The American Academy of Pediatrics https://healthychildren.org/