The global pandemic sparked by the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 caught many people off guard. Life changed seemingly overnight, causing a host of unforeseen consequences that people were still confronting months after the pandemic began.
The pandemic has proven stressful for many people, and the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions notes that should not come as a surprise. According to the CDC, fear and anxiety about a new disease and what could happen can be overwhelming. Public health actions, such as the social distancing measures implemented during the COVID-19 outbreak, can increase anxiety and stress. That’s even true among children, millions of whom have been separated from their friends and forbidden from participating in extracurricular activities for several months.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that children may not recognize that they are stressed. That makes it imperative that parents learn to recognize the warning signs that stress is affecting children. The USNLM says increased stress can manifest itself both physically and emotionally.
The physical symptoms of stress can mimic symptoms of other conditions, so parents should not jump to any conclusions before consulting their children’s pediatricians. In addition, the CDC says not all children and teens respond to stress in the same way. However, there are some physical indicators that may be warning signs that a child is stressed.
• Decreased appetite or other changes in eating habits
• Unexplained headaches or body pain
• New or recurrent bedwetting
• Sleep disturbances
• Upset stomach or vague stomach pain
The CDC also notes that children may confront stress by using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.
According to the CDC, children and teens react, in part, on what they see from the adults around them. So the ways in which adults are responding to the pandemic could be affecting their children’s behavior. Some of the behavioral symptoms to look for include:
• Excessive worry or sadness
• An inability to relax
• New or recurring fears, such as fear of the dark, fear of being alone and/or fear of strangers
• Clinging behaviors, such as an unwillingness to let their parents out of sight
• Anger, crying or whining
• Inability to control emotions
• Aggressive or stubborn behavior
• Going back to behaviors present at a younger age
• Avoidance of things enjoyed in the past, including family or school activities
• Irritability or acting out, especially among teens
• Difficulties with attention and concentration
Many people, including children, have had to deal with heightened stress levels during the pandemic. Parents who recognize signs of stress in their children should consult their kids’ pediatricians immediately.