Kids and teens who have experienced intense or severe adversity and toxic stress may also be sensitized to other stressors that follow. Their stress responses may be more easily activated, and they may have greater stress responses than peers who haven’t had similar experiences. When our kids may seem to be blowing things out of proportion and overreacting – it’s likely not “all in their head,” and they’re probably not just taking things too personally. Their responses could be because they’re biologically more sensitive to the experience of the stressors that they’re feeling.
When we’ve experienced ACEs, our bodies may continue to make more stress hormones than the average person. Throughout childhood and adolescence, that can look and feel like having trouble sleeping, difficulty focusing on tasks or paying attention and learning, or struggling with self-regulation.
There are other signs we can observe that may mean our child is experiencing stress and could use some extra support. The chart below lists some more ways that stress shows up in kids and teens.
POTENTIAL SIGNS OF STRESS
Fear of being alone
Loss of bladder/bowel control, constipation, bed-wetting
Change in appetite
Increased temper tantrums, whining, or clinging behaviors
Irritability, whining, aggressive behavior
Physical symptoms (headaches, stomachaches)
Withdrawal from peers
Loss of interest
Competition for parents’ attention
Forgetfulness about chores and new information learned in school
Physical symptoms (headaches, rashes, etc.)
Agitation or decrease in energy, apathy
Ignoring health promotion behaviors
Isolating from peers and loved ones
Concerns about stigma and injustices
If you are concerned about these or other signs of stress in your child or teen, talk to your family doctor or your child’s school counselor. There are lots of tools available to help you, but a trusted professional can give you the best guidance for your family’s situation.