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Why is my child stressed?

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Ask a child what worries them and you’ll probably get ‘when I run fast I worry I’ll fall over’ and ‘sometimes I think there’s a witch in my bedroom’ (true story – straw poll of one). But there’s much more going on in that little head, and a heap of stuff could be piling pressure on your child’s emotional wellbeing.

Nightmares, mysterious tummy-aches, bedwetting and out-of-character naughtiness can all be signs of stress. Unsurprisingly a lot of childhood worries mirror our own fears and hang-ups. From navigating tricky relationships to concerns about your appearance, via pressures of (school)work – it’s all there in mini-me form.

Friendships and bust ups

Friendships are important for everyone, but children don’t have the same perspective as us grown-ups. Bust-ups with a bestie can seem like the end of the world, and learning to manage other people’s emotions is a tall order for someone who can’t yet manage their own. If you’re lucky you’ll hear stories of ‘he said; she said’ and ‘so-and-so’s not my friend any more’. If not, you might have to do some digging to find out why your child is suddenly reluctant to go to school or avoiding play-dates.

Fitting in

The pressure to fit in seems to start earlier and earlier. Is your child coming under fire for having the wrong shoes or swimming bag, or just for liking different things? Throw your child’s appearance into the mix – endless re-doings of ponytails and worrying whether people think they’re too fat/thin/freckly/curly – and it’s no surprise that getting ready to leave the house is so fraught.why is my child stressed

You could do worse than having a browse around ChildLine’s website with your child, for some tips for coping with tricky friends and bullying behaviour.

School stress

Once you do get them to school, are your kids feeling the pressure of keeping up with the work? If you’re having battles over homework and random ailments on spelling-test day, it might be worth having a word at school. And try to make sure you’re sitting down regularly with your child to give them some encouragement – even if it means letting the housework slide, or missing out a home-cooked meal. Hell, it’s a good excuse for pizza, and who cares if the carpet goes an extra day without seeing the hoover?

Stress at home

Sometimes, though, you might need to look closer to home to find what’s stressing your child. Are you moving house, expecting a baby, having money worries or even going through a relationship break-up? Change can be scary for anyone, but particularly for a youngster who has no control over the situation. So try to remember that, as Grandma used to say, ‘little pitchers have big ears’, and talk to your child so they can understand whatever’s going on at home.

boy stressed with school

Have you ever seen or read something distressing that you just can’t stop thinking about? So do children – even if you think they’re not watching the news or listening to grown-ups talking, they can pick up on what’s happening and worry that the trouble is coming their way. Newsround has some great advice for young people on how to cope with their feelings about world events.

No parent can shield their child from every cause of stress – and it wouldn’t be much of a preparation for adult life if you did. All you can do is listen, explain, try to see things from your child’s point of view, and reassure them that they’re safe, loved, and beautiful to you!




About Alison McKay

About Alison McKay

Alison McKay is a charity PR professional with over 15 years' experience in full-time, part-time and jobshare roles. Since being made redundant while on maternity leave, she has divided her time between working for a local museum, freelance and volunteer writing, and being chief wrangler to a two-year-old mud-magnet and an almost-seven-year-old wannabe dog-care worker with a penchant for hair accessories. Alison's hobbies include yoga, reading cookery books and putting away just enough clean laundry to keep the pile below 3ft tall.

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