Common Signs of Fear, Worry, and Stress in Young Children
Being forced to seek safety in a new country is very difficult. Young children may not have the words to express how they feel, and emotions often show up in behavior. Here are common signs of fear, worry and stress in young children:
- Having difficulty sleeping -such as trouble falling asleep alone, waking up frequently, having nightmares or wetting the bed
- Returning to younger age behaviors or habits
- Being afraid to separate from parent or caregiver
- Developing new fears or worries, being unable to calm themselves after getting upset
- Having bodily complaints (stomachaches, headaches, etc.)
Helping Children Manage Stress
As a parent or caregiver, you are in the best position to help your child heal from past events, manage worries, and adjust to a new environment. Here are some ways that you can help your child manage stress:
- Make time to be together, hold them and let them know you are there to keep them safe.
- If you must go away, tell them where you are going and when you will be back. Leave them with a familiar item that might help them feel secure.
- Keep them away from frightening images and conversations.
- Establish a routine that includes set times to wake up, eat, and go to bed.
- Do familiar things with them like singing a favorite song or telling a special story.
- Let your child talk about what happened to them or their feelings in their own way.
- If your child is misbehaving, recognize what they are feeling and show them a better and more positive way to respond.
- When your child has difficult behavior, stay calm. This will help calm them down and let them know they are safe with you.
Behavioral Signs in Children: When to Seek Support
Your child needs time to heal and adjust. However, if you observe these behaviors, reach out to your child's doctor, teacher, caseworker or counselor for support:
- Your child’s mood or behavior does not improve or gets worse.
- Your child has frequent bodily complaints (headache, stomachache, etc.) .
- Your child is having trouble regaining a skill they previously mastered or you are worried about their development.
- Your child talks about harming themselves and/or others or engages in harmful behavior.