Stress has increased for kids over recent decades. Life is lived faster. Social structures like the family are breaking down leaving kids more vulnerable to stress and anxiety. The result is more kids suffer from stress related illnesses. Childhood emotional disorders are more prevalent than ever before and pediatricians see record number of kids for physically related stress illness.

Do you wonder what children worry about?

Researchers Silverman, LaGreca and Wasserstein (1995) decided to study the normal worries of schoolchildren between the ages of 7 and 12 years. They interviewed 273 schoolchildren and asked them about 14 areas of worry. When a child identified a specific area of worry, the researchers asked more detailed questions. Here’s what they found.

  • The average number of worries per child was 7.64 and covered a wide range of topics but most worried about health, school and personal harm.
  • The most frequent worries were about family, classmates and friends.
  • The most intense worries were about war, money and disasters.
  • Children’s worries related somewhat to anxiety.

Another community study (Henker, Whalen, & O’Neil, 1995) interviewed 194 children in grades four through eight to find out their worries and risk perceptions about health and the environment. These kids identified concerns about personal issues (e.g., grades), social relations, death and social issues such as homelessness and the environment.

When you ask kids what they would like to change the most in their lives, the answer is frequently to have parents who are less stressed and tired. Children are reacting to what researchers Miller and Rahe have documented--stress has increased 45% over the past 30 years.

Information about normal childhood worries also helps us understand the role of worry in children developing anxiety disorders. Weems, Silverman and La Greca (2000) took the normative data on childhood worries and compared it to anxious children referred to specialty clinics. When they did, they found that clinic kids worried about similar concerns. However, anxious kids tend to worry more often, more intensely and more of the time.

As parents, we need to seriously think of ways to decrease the stress in our homes. Kids need down time and an opportunity to practice relaxation. If you find yourselves running from event to event, it’s time to slow down and rethink priorities. Both you and your children will benefit from the changes.