Good mental health includes stress management and this is just as important for our children as it is for ourselves.  It is essential that the school and family work together to identify any areas of concern and implement strategies so that our children can learn how to manage their own stress before depression and anxiety take hold.

Recognising the symptoms of stress in your child or student is the first step in developing a successful Management Action Plan.   From there triggers or stressors can be identified and suitable strategies put in place to manage them.

Below are some symptoms of stress commonly seen in our children.

1.            Nail Biting / Nail Picking.

2.            Withdrawing from activities.
Not wanting to participate in activities or socialising with friends as they once did.

3.            School Refusal.
Not wanting to go to school with no clear answers as to “why”.

4.            Stomach Aches.
More than the usual number of stomach aches with no medical reasons.  Most of us carry a large amount of our stress in our stomachs.

5.            Hair twirling/pulling.
For some of our kid’s this can be a way of dealing with negative or uncomfortable feelings, such as stress and anxiety.

6.            Irritability and anger.
Sudden and/or more frequent bouts of irritability or anger as our kids are experiencing strong emotions and are unable to cope with them.

7.            Sleep Problems.
Insomnia, nightmares, constant waking or trouble falling asleep.  Too much or too little sleep.

8.            Obsessive worry.
“What if”?  Worrying about every little detail of the day.

9.            Irrational Fears and Phobias.
Worrying excessively about things that are unlikely to affect them.  Eg:  avalanche in Summer or getting bitten by a lion.

10.         Changes in appetite.
Eating more or less and craving high fat/ high sugar foods.

11.         Frequent Headaches.
More than the usual number of headaches with no medical explanation.

12.         Rapid heartbeat/palpitations.

13.         Perfectionism.
Spending more time than is considered necessary on one piece of work or a task to make sure it is “perfect”.

14.         Avoidance.
Avoiding tasks or events that will cause stress like trying out for the school choir even though they love to sing at home and can sing quite well.

15.         Lack of concentration and focus.

16.         Loss of confidence.

17.         Clinginess or separation anxiety.
Clinging to a parent or specific teachers.

18.         Excess Fidgeting.


What Can You Do?

Observe and listen.  A child will not always be able to say “I am stressed”.  Look for signs as already mentioned, observe their body language and listen to what they have to say.  Statements like “I don’t feel well” or “I have a sore stomach” or a child who is continually apologising can often be code for “I am stressed”.

If you think that your child or student is stressed then developing a Stress M.A.P or Management Action Plan in conjunction with the family/school and Specialist can empower the child to manage their own stress, develop resilience and generally improve their quality of life.  Some stressors or triggers are unavoidable like a school test so empowering our kids with the tools needed to manage their stress as soon as symptoms arise can prove invaluable in ensuring good mental health and general well-being.


Stress M. A. P. (Management Action Plan).

1.    Know your symptoms.
(How our stress makes us think, feel and act).
2.    Pinpoint the initial symptom.
(What is the very first response to the stressor eg: fast heart rate, clenched fist, negative thought, red face).
3.    Identify Triggers/Stressors.
(Can include:  Lack of sleep, parental divorce, nightmares, speaking in front of the class, negative thoughts, death in the family, upcoming tests.)
4.    Investigate Suitable Strategies that will Combat that Trigger.
(Breaking out into a spot of Yoga in the middle of the classroom is not always a suitable strategy 🙂 )
5.    Implement Strategies at the Initial symptom (not at full meltdown stage).
(Some suitable strategies can include:  Breathing Exercises, Hand Mudras, Reframing Negative Thoughts, Visualisations, a good bedtime routine, Mindfulness and Meditation.)

For more information or for guidance on developing an individual Stress Management Action Plan please see or call/text me on 0401 561923.

I am a Holistic Counsellor specialising in Stress and Anxiety Management.  I have also worked in the school system in both the mainstream and special education settings and have a son with Autism whom I have guided to successfully manage his own stress and anxiety.


© copyright. May not be reproduced without acknowledgement to the author. Written by Kim Norton 3rd March 2018.


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