What Their Body Is Saying – How Young Kids Are Communicating Their Stress in 2020

Your kids are so stressed they are screaming. Maybe not with their words, but absolutely with their behaviors. Kids may not have the emotional and verbal skills to tell you exactly what is going on, but that does not mean they aren’t trying to tell you. Young children communicate much more through their behaviors than they ever will with their words.

Young Children tend to thrive in structure and, to say the least, 2020 has altered their schedule. Not only are they trying to adjust to changes due to Covid, but they are also coping with loss. The best preschool and daycare teachers are experts at building relationships with your children, which is great for getting your child to enjoy going to school, but in moments like these, it makes it harder because they lose that connection. While it helps that they get to be around their favorite person, you, their parent, they are still very likely to show some signs of grief and stress – grief from the lost connections of friends and teachers and stress from the changes in their schedule. Kids are also good at reading the emotions of their loved ones. While they may not grasp what is going on, they are likely hyper-aware of the stress their parents are feeling around issues like Covid-19 and, more recently, the protests and riots.

Stress can show up in many ways, but some of the more common symptoms in younger children may be:

1. Complaints of headaches and stomachaches. If you’ve talked to your doctor about your little one’s headaches and tummy aches and they have ruled out a medical problem, it is very possible that their body is letting you know that they are feeling stressed.

What your child is saying: “I am worried and sad, and I feel it in my tummy.”

2. Regression in behavior. More infantile behavior can be a sign of kids dealing with stress. You may notice them using baby talk or maybe they are trying to spend more time cuddled up in your lap. You might notice your previously fully dry, potty trained child is having more accidents than usual. These are all common symptoms of pediatric stress.

What your child may be saying is: “I am scared. I need to be nurtured. Please hug me more.”

3. Increases in tantrums. Like the above two, your child is feeling the emotions around all of the changes and loss and that makes their window of tolerance for other stressors smaller. Before, they may have been able to cope when they couldn’t wear their princess Elsa dress the third day in a row, but now that is more than they can bear, and it results in a tantrum.

What your child may be saying: “There is too much going on and I don’t know how to deal with it all.”

4. An increase in oppositional or defiant behaviors. Parents may notice their children saying “no” more often or refusing to do what they are asked. When asked to clean their room, they may have a fit.

What your child is saying: “I feel out of control and I need to find a way to get more of it.”

Kids may not have the vocabulary to verbally tell us what they are feeling, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t communicating. When parents start looking at their behaviors as a form of communication, they start to realize how much their kids are really telling them. Once they understand what their kids are really saying, then, they can start communicating back more effectively.

Sometimes understanding what your child is communicating is enough, but sometimes parents need some support and help translating what their preschooler is trying to tell them. If that sounds like you, I would love to help. Give me a call at 513-646-9708 or email me at [email protected] for more personalized support for you and your little one.