Worried about your kids and COVID-19 stress? Spotting signs of stress in children at any age

School education kids
Posted at 11:35 AM, Aug 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-18 01:38:00-04

Kids and teens may be giving parents clues that COVID-19 is weighing on them emotionally. It could be in their body language, in their evolving behavior, or in their physical appearance.

As a parent, are you catching those small signs? The Rebound Arizona is going through what adults should be watching for in their children.

"It can happen at very young ages and it can show up in lots of different ways," explained licensed clinical social worker Michael Klinkner with Evolve Counseling and Behavioral Health Services.

For kids between pre-school and early elementary school ages, Klinkner said to keep an eye out for some physical symptoms.

"You're looking for headaches, stomachaches," Klinkner described.

He said parents may also notice more fidgety or hyperactive behavior that goes beyond normal for their child.

After recognizing that something is off, Klinkner advised parents to then label the emotion. Younger children do not have the vocabulary to properly express themselves.

"So, a parent is going to say something like, 'I can see you've been more nervous,'" Klinkner explained.

It is important to find out what is causing this stress by asking them questions. Then, most importantly, validate their feelings.

When it comes to elementary and middle school ages, Klinkner tells parents to watch for meltdowns over their appearance and changes to their appetite.

"You don't need to label it for them," Klinkner said. "You can just ask them."

Once again, validate.

When it comes to high school teenagers, parents may notice tension in their child's shoulders or jaw.

"You can ask them more directly about, like, the physical symptoms, like racing heart or tingling in their fingers and toes," Klinkner listed off. "Or if there's any problems... with their stomach or with their head."

For teenagers, he suggests finding opportunities for them to take control or make decisions in the home.

"So, even if you think, 'Hmmm that's not the ideal way to handle it.' It's OK," Klinkner said. "Let them figure that out for themselves."

Here is a full list of things parents should watch for with each age range:

Pre-school to early elementary school

  • Headaches
  • Stomachaches
  • Refusal to do things that they had previously been doing
  • Won't eat snacks
  • Don't want to participate in daycare/school
  • Bathroom use frequency - sometimes way more or way less
  • Hyper-active/fidgety/easily distracted -- it's not attention deficit issues, it's lots of anxiety
  • Tense muscles
  • Trouble falling asleep

Elementary school to middle school

  • Headaches/Stomach aches - in the morning and at night
  • Meltdowns about things like clothing, hair, shoes - social things
  • School/sports/tasks - not interested anymore
  • Changes in eating/appetite - more or less

High school

  • Excessive worry, looping over the same thing repeatedly
  • Isolated in room
  • Using video games as an escape to avoid other things or situations
  • Lots of tension in shoulders or jaw
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Refusal to do things that they would have done previously
  • Shaky, not just fidgety

If a parent notices these behaviors persisting for a few weeks, it may be best to seek professional help.

Klinkner also said that if a child at any age mentions self-harm, take it seriously immediately and seek professional help.

To reach Evolve Counseling and Behavioral Health Services, click here.

To reach the National Suicide Prevention hotline, call 1-800-273-8255

To reach EMPACT, call 480-784-1500