Stress Overview for Parents

Stress is a term that we all use to describe when we feel overwhelmed by what is happening in our lives. Stress comes with being human. Sometimes stress is good because it gives us the energy to react to an emergency. When there is too much stress it causes us to feel physically and emotionally distressed. Also, when you or your child feels "stressed-out", you do not think or remember as well as you do when you are not distressed. The table below lists the common symptoms of being "distressed."

Distress Signs

  • Cold, clammy hands
  • Dizziness
  • Increased pulse rate
  • Hyperventilation
  • Dilated pupils
  • Stomach upset
  • Frequent urination
  • Diarrhea
  • Appetite loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Nervous tics
  • Muscle aches
  • Teeth grinding
  • Some types of skin problems
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased vulnerability for illness
    (colds, upper respiratory infections)
  • Increased sensitivity to physical ailments
    (such as allergies, asthma)


  • Increased irritability
  • Withdrawal
  • Hostility
  • Impatience
  • Negativism
  • Tantrums
  • Moodiness
  • Rigid thinking
  • Frequent bad dreams
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased number of accidents
  • Bed-wetting
  • Loss of interest in almost all activities
  • Decline in work/school performance
  • Nervous mannerisms and laughter
  • Increase in oppositional behavior>
  • Increase in impulsive behavior
  • Infantile or regressive behavior

The first defense against distress involves understanding what kinds of things distress you and your child. For example, many grown-ups get distressed over not having enough money to pay bills or being treated unfairly at their jobs. Kids get stressed too. Kids may become distressed when parents fight, problems they are having with friends or their brothers and sisters, a new baby in the family or a parent who is absent. It is important to identify the stress “triggers” for you and your child. One way to do this is to use a stress diary for a week or two. Stress diaries make us aware of the things that stress us out. You may already know what stresses you and your child out. However, the stress diary may also make you aware of other things like what you are eating or drinking that make you or your child more distressed. Here is a stress diary that you can use.

Download Stress Diary