Kids and STRESS

Aug. 17, 2015 -- Children are showing signs of stress as early as grade school, but their parents are not seeing it, suggests a national survey by WebMD.

At the same time, a majority of parents say that personally, they're very stressed.

The WebMD Stress in Children Consumer Survey included 432 parents of children ages 5 to 13. The responses were collected from June 1 to July 31, 2015.

Kids and Stress

Nearly 1 in 5 parents surveyed rated their own stress levels at a maximum "10 out of 10," and more than half (57%) said their stress was at 7 or higher. But they considered their children to be under very little stress: 60% of parents rated their kids' stress at 4 or below.

"Parents seem to be recognizing their own stress, but they are not necessarily recognizing the link between what's happening in the family and how it's affecting their children," says Sandra Hassink, MD, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "A child's stress can increase along with family stress, especially if it is unrecognized."

The survey revealed that 72% of children showed negative behaviors linked to stress more frequently over the past 12 months:

  • 43% of parents said their children were arguing more.
  • 37% reported increased crying or whining.
  • 34% said their children appeared worried and anxious.
Physical symptoms often linked to stress were also common among children in the past 12 months:

  • 44% of parents reported that their children complained of headaches.
  • 44% reported stomachaches.
  • 38% reported nightmares or trouble sleeping.
  • 20% said their children had decreased appetites or other changes in their eating habits.
And 1 in 5 parents (20%) said that their child had undergone behavioral counseling or therapy.

"Younger children don't talk about being 'stressed' in those terms," Hassink says. "So parents might not be hearing their children articulate that they're under stress, but I wonder if some of it might be coming out in the physical and behavioral issues the parents are reporting."

Whether parents realize it or not, stress among kids is common.

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