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Pediatrician Tips

Managing Little Kids' Stress

Written By Ryan Padrez, MD

Even our littlest ones can experience a significant amount of stress. But how can we tell? We spoke to our pediatric advisor Dr. Ryan Padrez for answers. “Unlike teenagers and many elementary school age children, our youngest children often won’t use their words to say, ‘I feel depressed or anxious,’” he said. “Instead it is a little more challenging because it requires caregivers to recognize signs and symptoms.”

He advised, “Any of these symptoms could be caused by many things, but if you are concerned it may be a manifestation of your child suffering from depression, anxiety or trauma, then please reach out to discuss further with your child’s primary care physician. Your child may benefit from support from a therapist.”

Here are some symptoms Dr. Padrez advises to look out for, as well as tips to help promote better mental health.

Physical Symptoms

Stress can manifest physically, such as new onset of headaches, stomachaches, or even diarrhea. If these symptoms persist and aren’t linked to a sickness or illness, they may be a sign of anxiety or depression, and you should talk with your child’s primary care physician.

Behavioral Symptoms

Other signs may be a little harder to identify, but they can be things like excessive sleepiness, becoming easily afraid, unfamiliar outbursts of anger or emotional swings, or diminished interest in their favorite activities.

Tip #1: Consistent responses to behaviors.

Kids look to parents as a primary source of trust and therefore rely on consistent responses from you. When kids experience big feelings and display challenging behaviors, it can be easy for us to feel frustrated or angry. It helps to remember that all behaviors are a form your child’s communication.

Tip #2: Keep your child feeling safe.

As we all know, a main priority for all parents – at all times – is keeping our child feeling safe. When you maintain routines in their daily schedule, it helps them know what to expect. Knowing what to expect every day gives them predictability and therefore, a sense of security.

Tip #3: Nurture your mental health.

Make time during the day - even just a few minutes - to take care of yourself! To be able to promote your child’s mental health, you need to ensure yours is also supported. Parenting can be hard enough at times! But if you’re stressed or overwhelmed, it can become especially challenging. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or experiencing feelings of anxiety or depression, you can always reach out to your primary care physician for help.

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