With increased fear and uncertainty, as well as abrupt and large scale changes in routine, the current climate due to COVID-19 can be very anxiety provoking. Kids may not be able to express the stress they’re feeling verbally, and so it can be helpful to look for other signs your kid might be experiencing increased anxiety during these stressful times.
Some kids might demonstrate physical effects of stress. These symptoms can include:
- Headaches and body pain that can’t be explained by other medical ailments (1).
- Stomach pain that does not interfere with appetite or sleep, and doesn’t result in vomiting, diarrhea, or weight loss. Abdominal pain with these effects is likely related to medical illness, while abdominal pain alone often indicates stress in young children (2).
- Difficulties with sleep, including falling and staying asleep. For some kids this may also include asking for more reassurance before bedtime, increasing the length of bedtime routines (2).
- Canker sores without the presence of a fever or other sign of illness (2).
Changes in behavior can also be indicative of increased stress. These changes may include:
- Changes in emotional presentation, including a raise in tantrums, tearfulness, and irritation, or becoming more withdrawn (1,2).
- Shifts in behavior when using the bathroom. Kids may demonstrate regression around toilet behaviors, including accidents or bedwetting, or feel they need to use the bathroom more frequently (1, 2).
- Having a harder time paying attention and concentrating (1).
- Growing avoidance, including activities that are typically enjoyable (1).
Knowing signs of stress can help you recognize when your child is feeling overwhelmed, even if they don’t. By talking to them about their experiences and providing reassurance you may be able to help alleviate anxiety.