Kids (4-12)

The Five Signs of Stress in Children

Kids instinctively know that they like being with their moms and talking to their moms; and science backs them up.  A new study found that just hearing their mother’s voice reduces stress in children.  So if you’re working, and away from your kids a lot this summer, call your children to connect – before they call you.

A recent conversation I had with several pediatricians led to the tentative conclusion that we felt we might possibly be seeing an increase in the number of child patients we see that are complaining of physical manifestations related to emotional stressors.

The medical term for such a physical condition is SOMATIZATION. Somatization represents the conversion of emotional distress to physical symptoms. It is well known that stress can make many medical conditions worse but somatization is a condition whereby significant emotional distress is perceived as a physical symptom rather than as an actual mental event.

Stress Symptoms in Children

Some of the more common symptoms encountered in a busy pediatrician’s office that are on occasion solely related to stress include:

1. Abdominal Pain

2. Chest Pain

3. Hyperventilation

4. Headache

5. Fatigue

The Biggie – Stomachaches 

One of the more common manifestations, abdominal pain, is estimated to occur in 10-15% of children between 4 and 16 years of age.(1) A recent poll of pediatricians in the central Florida region revealed that a minimum of 1-2 patients per month were seen in a busy pediatrician’s office with a complaint of chronic abdominal pain greater than six months that was felt to reflect a somatization condition. Once these patients were directed to a treatment plan of a mixture of support, encouragement, and counseling for their particular stressors, their abdominal symptoms resolved.

How to Minimize Stress in Your Children’s Lives

This information is simply to encourage parents and caretakers to seek to spend quality time with their children to prevent stress. Some of this time should involve open discussion of their children’s emotional issues. This is best done in a setting of love, encouragement, and support as well as availability.

Some practical tips that may help parents become more aware of potential emotional stressors of their children include setting aside time whereby parents ask questions about the highlights of their child’s day. Then parents can ask if there were any upsetting events that particular day or week. Simply turning off television during mealtimes and turning off the car radio during drives may open up more quality time of conversation with our children. Unfortunately, the average child of today’s culture spends several hours daily with various media sources (TV, Internet, computer games, videos) and very little time engaged in conversation with their families. (2)

Our pediatric group encourages families to “UNPLUG” from electronic entertainment sources at times and to “PLUG IN” to purposeful conversation and activities with each other.


NOTE: Any physical symptom of a child that is of unknown cause should be brought to the attention of qualified medical personnel.

Medical information within this site is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of any health condition. Please consult a licensed health care professional for the treatment or diagnosis of any medical condition.

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