24/7: A Resource For Working Parents


Kids Have Stress Too 

We often think of stress as something that happens to busy adults with lots of responsibilities and problems. But even young children experience stress. Stress is a normal part of life. It’s our brain and body’s response to both positive and negative challenges. However, too much negative stress, for too long, can contribute to children’s behaviour and mood problems:

• anxiety, sadness or irritability

• tantrums or other acting out behaviours

• problems with school, social functioning, sleep or even physical health

• learning problems at school

In fact, many of the everyday parenting issues that cause stress for parents are either caused, or made worse, by excess stress that is affecting children.

Where does children’s stress come from?

Some of the “big” sources of kids’ stress are fairly obvious: family conflict, divorce, moving, being in hospital, being bullied, feeling misunderstood or ignored.

But children also experience everyday stress from rushed mornings, separation anxiety, sibling conflict and the social and learning stresses involved in a normal day at school. Some kids are also stressed by too much sensory or social stimulation: loud noises, textures in clothing, new people and social situations.


Also Recommended:  Every Mind Matters Handouts For Parents, Helping Stressed Out Kids, Stress and Your Child


How kids cope

At first, children are totally dependent on parents and caregivers to relieve their stress through comforting, reassurance, distraction or being taken away from stressful situations. This kind of support helps a child’s internal stress system learn that it can calm down and what helps it to calm down. Young children also begin to learn strategies that help them cope with stress: thumbsucking, cuddling with a stuffed toy or blankie or coming to us for hugs and reassurance. Unstructured play is also a great stress reliever for young children.


Highly stressed children are often too distressed or overwhelmed to use their coping strategies. What’s more, some of the ways children respond to excess stress aren’t really strategies, they are just reactions, such as backtalk or tantrums. Therefore children need lots of our help to manage stress.

Thank you to Workplace Strategies for Mental Health for their support of 24/7: A resource for working parents.