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Parents discount back-to-school stress

August 17, 2015
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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WebMD recently released the results of two new back-to-school surveys. The WebMD Stress in Children Survey indicates that parents may be missing cues about the degree and nature of their children's stress.

Respondents stated that their children exhibited increased negative behaviors over the past 12 months, including arguments (43%), anger (32%), lying (32%), and temper tantrums (31%). Likewise, between one-third and one-half of parents reported their kids complain about physical ailments that often are consistent with stress, including stomachaches (44%), headaches (44%), and trouble sleeping/nightmares (38%). Yet 54% of respondents believe their children's stress is only moderate. 

A majority of respondents also report that their family has experienced one or more major life stressors in the past year -- the type of life events known to create significant stress in children.

Specifically, 57% of parents rate their own stress as high, and 60% of parents said their family experienced at least one major negative life event over the past 12 months, including job loss, financial problems, divorce and/or the death or serious illness of a loved one. Yet the two most common primary causes of children's stress cited by parents were "schoolwork/homework" (53%) and "friends/relationships" (51%).

"Parents seemed to discount their children's stress levels, even while saying they had traumatic family events over the past year. When asked what they thought were the primary sources of their kids' stress, they tended to name more generic causes, such as homework and school,"  Hansa Bhargava, WebMD pediatrician, said in a statement.

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To view the full WebMD Stress in Children Consumer Survey results, which also address methods for managing stress and the impact of bullying, click here.