Kids May Be More Stressed Than Parents Think

Mother helping child with homework at tableA WebMD study of stress in parents and children suggests many parents may not notice signs of stress in their children. When parents do recognize their children’s stress, they often misattribute the stress to schoolwork challenges, even when the cause of the stress is closer to home.

Do Parents Recognize Their Children’s Stress?

WebMD’s 2015 Stress in Children Consumer Survey collected data from June 1 to July 31, surveying a total of 432 parents of children aged 5 to 13. The survey showed high levels of stress among parents, who rated their stress on a scale of 1 to 10. Fifty-seven percent reported their stress at a 7 or higher, and almost 1 in 5 parents said their stress was a 10.

Even though these parents reported high levels of stress, most did not think their kids were stressed. In fact, 60% percent of parents ranked their children’s stress at a 4 or lower.

To analyze children’s stress levels, the survey asked about behaviors associated with stress, such as arguing, crying, anxiety, and headaches. Seventy-two percent of parents reported their children had at least one symptom associated with stress during the last 12 months. Forty-four percent of children complained of headaches or stomachaches, and 38% said they experienced frequent nightmares or insomnia. Forty-three percent of parents said their children argued more than usual, and 37% reported an increase in crying or whining. These findings suggest that parents notice symptoms of stress in their children but may not attribute these symptoms to stress.

Why Are Kids So Stressed?

The array of stress-related symptoms reported by most children in the study indicate that kids often struggle with stress, even if their parents do not correctly identify their symptoms.

When asked about the sources of their children’s stress, most parents (53%) said schoolwork and homework were key factors, and 51% said their children’s friends caused stress. Yet 60% of survey respondents reported a stressful family event—such as a divorce, job loss, or death in the family—in the last year. This suggests much of children’s stress may stem from difficulties at home.

Bullying may also play a role in children’s stress levels. Thirty-eight percent of parents reported that their children experienced bullying, with 51% of those parents placing their children’s stress levels between 8 and 10.

The American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey may help illuminate some causes of stress among older youth. During the school year, teens often report higher stress levels than adults, though 54% of teens say stress has little or no impact on their physical health, compared to 39% of adults.

Helping Stressed Youth

Therapy can help kids better manage their stress, and some of those coping with conditions such as anxiety or depression may also obtain benefit from medication or extensive lifestyle changes. Overload can affect a child’s overall well-being, so the American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to intervene if they observe one or more of the following in their children:

  • Frequent physical symptoms, such as stomach pain or headaches
  • Fatigue, restlessness, or agitation
  • A depressed or low mood, irritability, or negativity
  • A loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Difficulty communicating about negative feelings
  • Changes in grades
  • Behavior problems such as stealing, lying, or neglecting family responsibilities
  • Changes in a child’s level of dependency; some stressed kids regress, becoming more dependent on their parents


  1. American Psychological Association survey shows teen stress rivals that of adults. (2014, February 11). Retrieved from
  2. Shaw, G. (2015, August 17). WebMD survey: Parents don’t see kids’ stress signs. Retrieved from
  3. Signs of overload. (2015, August 20). Retrieved from

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Maddie

    August 26th, 2015 at 10:38 AM

    It makes me very sad to realize that our kids are having to go through so many more emotional and heavy things than most of us ever had to deal with as children. There are so many great things in this world today but then there are other things that just continue to add more and more pressure to their plates and i am not sure how much more of that their little hearts can take. It just doesn’t seem fair that we were allowed to have such idyllic childhoods and through the growth of whatever this is, our kids are in some ways being denied that.

  • Stover

    August 26th, 2015 at 5:27 PM

    I am thinking that many parents unfortunately turn a blind eye to the stress that the kids are feeling because they don’t want to now how much the way that they press them causes the kids to have such a negative reaction.

  • catherine

    August 27th, 2015 at 10:45 AM

    The more stressed out the parents are, then the more stressed the kids are bound to be

  • Correy

    August 28th, 2015 at 1:08 PM

    What is causing all of this stress on the kids? I think that society is definitely going down the quite wrong path if our kids are really feeling like this all of the time.

  • toby

    August 29th, 2015 at 5:30 PM

    I have noticed a trend that many kids are simply not allowed to be kids anymore. They have all of this responsibility at school and at home and then for extracurriculars and so there is no time left over for them to relax and just be a kid.

  • Carson

    August 30th, 2015 at 9:13 AM

    Stress at home can be the straw that breaks the camel’s backs for the kids. They are not only getting inundated with work at school, there are now too many who have to come home to either very little parental support or homes that could be in upheaval from marriage troubles to financial woes. This is all a lot for any adult to have to bear, much less a child.

  • Quinton

    August 31st, 2015 at 10:36 AM

    Look, our children are more stressed than ever before and yet we keep pressing them to do more and more things. It is not enough anymore to just be kids and make good grades- they have to do this after school and that on the weekends, and I am telling you, the less down time that they have they are going to more and more resemble the harried and stressed adults we work with every day. I want my kids to be laid back and get to enjoy their childhoods. Of course I want them to be a success, but I think that a big part of that future success is finding new things to be excited about and to live for. I think that those are the things that they can learn by being playful and imaginative as children.

  • Snowflakes

    September 20th, 2015 at 9:39 AM

    Hi,i’d like to be known as snowflakes.I’m currently having a very big problem with my family.First of all,i’m sorry for the bad grammar i’m using because my english was not that good.So,i have been stressed since i was a kid and now i’m already 17.My dad was an alcoholic and i wouldn’t lie that he used to abusive me back then.Basically he is a bad tempered person.While my mom she is so full of hatred.She won’t never admit if ever she makes mistakes,she is so egoistic.I’m growing up seeing they fought using harshness and bad words,i’m scared.I’m tired of living in a negative life.My life is so full of negativity.They both have never thinking about my happiness.They are so selfish.They only cares of what other’s talked about me.They only worried about their so called dignity as a businessman&a businesswoman.They have never really care about me,i was never been in any vacation with them.So i became a rebel teenager.I bleach my hair and had pierced at my nose and tongue.They was so ashamed of me.Urgh,i’m done.Help me.that’s all i could type.

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