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Stressors in childhood are everywhere. Children often experience stress when facing situations requiring them to change or adapt. Although it’s most commonly associated with negative events, such as illness or death in the family, stress can also be caused by positive change, like starting a new activity or welcoming a new sibling.


What are the signs of stress in children?

Many children handle the stressors of everyday living with relative ease. But even the most well-adjusted child or adolescent can become overwhelmed when the changes around them seem beyond their ability to cope.

Look for these signs to determine if your child may be having difficulty dealing with stress:

  • Bullying or defying authority
  • Changes in sleeping habits, nightmares
  • Decreased appetite or changes in eating habits
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Drastic changes in academic performance
  • Increased conflicts with both family and peers
  • Increased irritability
  • Mood swings or acting out
  • New anxious habits such as thumb-sucking, nose-picking or hair-twirling
  • New or repetitive bedwetting
  • Physical ailments such as headache, upset stomach or gastrointestinal pain
  • Regression and loss of milestones


How do I help my child cope?

If you recognize excessive stress in your child, you can help them respond and cope in healthy ways with these tips.

  • Tell them to be kind to themselves
  • Let them connect with friends and loved ones for social support
  • Let them express their feelings through an outlet such as music, art making, journaling or blogging
  • Help them increase their physical activity and exercise
  • Help them practice mindfulness, relaxation and rhythmic breathing techniques


The Child Life Program at Good Samaritan Hospital

In both health care and community settings, Certified Child Life Specialists at Good Samaritan University Hospital (West Islip, NY) help infants, children, youth and families cope with the stress and uncertainty of acute and chronic illness, injury, trauma, disability, loss and grief. They provide evidence-based, developmentally and psychologically appropriate interventions, including therapeutic play, preparation for procedures, and education to reduce fear, anxiety and pain.

Contact the Child Life Program offices at (631) 376-3717. 

Explore pediatrics services at Catholic Health.


Call (866) MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health physician near you.

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