Preschooler Stress: Recognizing The Signs And Learning How To Cope

Nov 2, 2017

As a working parent, you’re likely all too familiar with the effects of stress on your personal well-being and family dynamics. But did you know that your preschooler is every bit as prone to stress as you are?

Although children are quite resilient, they can also be significantly affected by high stress levels, particularly during times of change. There’s no doubt that choosing child care is an important decision for your family, but it can result in higher anxiety levels for your child. And even if they had a good first day of preschool, they might show signs of stress later on (no matter how great the facility is).

Below, we’ll examine some of the most common causes and signs of preschooler stress and provide you with some tips that may improve the situation for the entire family.

The Causes Of Stress In Preschoolers

  • Changes in routine. Having to adjust to a major scheduling switch can be difficult even for adults. It can also really throw children for a loop. Whether they’ve just been enrolled in a good preschool program or they’re trying to adjust after a family vacation, that interrupted routine can result in anxiety that impacts their behavior.
  • Separation anxiety. Many families understand that choosing child care is an important decision, as is evidenced by the one in four children under age five who are enrolled in some form of organized child care arrangement. However, we’ve also written about the fact that that many preschoolers experience separation anxiety when they first attend preschool. Understandably, their distress can cause their emotions and actions to go a bit haywire during this time.
  • Too much stimulation. Some toddlers may become overstimulated by all of the newness they’ll experience when they attend a childcare facility or nursery school. Although having plenty of activities to participate in can be a good thing, for particularly sensitive children, all of the extra interaction can wear them out and cause added stress.
  • Loss of security objects, pets, etc. Many children will experience stress when they’re separated (either temporarily or permanently) from their favorite toy, a security blanket, or even the family pet. Going to daycare or preschool might mean that they can no longer carry their blankie wherever they go, but parents may do well to give them a smaller memento for them to keep with them during the day. If they’re especially attached to a pet, this memento can be connected to their creature companion.

The Signs Of Preschooler Stress

The signs of preschooler stress can be difficult to recognize at times, since they are not always indicative of this condition. However, if you do recognize any of these symptoms of stress, you may want to seek out professional advice or speak to your child’s teachers for more information.

  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Emotional changes (clinginess, anger, sadness, withdrawal)
  • More tantrums, fears, or nightmares
  • Nervous tics, movements, or habits (i.e., thumb-sucking, hair-chewing)
  • Increase in headaches, stomachaches, or other physical ailments
  • Changes in bathroom behavior
  • Increase in aggressive behavior (hitting, biting)

What Families Can Do To Reduce Preschooler Stress

Although choosing child care is an important decision for working families, even a great program may not alleviate the stress your child is experiencing. By sticking to a solid routine, engaging with your children about their experiences, giving them plenty of physical affection, and making sure they have time to decompress (without excessive screen time!), you can make a big difference in how they deal with stress. It’ll take a bit of time for them to adjust, but as long as they have a strong family bond and a good dose of understanding, they’ll make it through just fine.


If you are looking for a locally owned and operated child care facility with a individualized focus on each child’s development, give Lily Pond a call today.

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