Going back to school means the return of waking up earlier in the morning, going to classes and seeing classmates. For some kids, it’s something to look forward to. But for others, stress makes it hard to enjoy the school year.
School-related stress is common for kids of all ages and can stem from a variety of factors. Some kids worry about school performance – such as grades, taking tests or not getting along with their teacher. For others, it might be related to social issues, such as bullying or peer pressure. Trying to balance school, sports and work is a common source of stress as kids get older. Issues at home can also play a role with financial stress and changes in family dynamics affecting kids as much as adults.
It’s important to remember that stress isn’t always a bad thing. What matters is how we react to it. Reassure your kids that it’s okay to sometimes feel scared, angry, lonely or anxious. What’s important is learning positive coping skills to deal with that stress. Without these coping skills, stress can harm a person’s wellbeing. Parents should watch for these signs that stress is taking a toll:
- School refusal
- Sleep disturbances
- Thumb sucking
- Bed wetting
- Mood swings
- Acting out
- Trouble concentrating
- Letting schoolwork slide
- Withdrawal from family and friends
If you suspect your child is stressed, here are six tips to help them take control:
- Avoid overscheduling – One of the most common mistakes parents make is to overextend their kids. They shouldn’t be in so many activities that they don’t have any downtime and end up feeling overwhelmed. Make sure they have enough time to do their school work, eat, sleep and relax.
- Get adequate sleep – Aim for 7-9 hours a night to feel rested and less stressed.
- Eat together as a family – Aim to eat dinner together as a family and use the time to sit, relax and enjoy a healthy meal. It’s a great time to learn more about what’s going on in your kids’ lives and if anything is bothering them.
- Create a family calendar – Use it as a weekly planner and daily checklist to help keep track of assignments, upcoming tests, sports practices and more.
- Set up a homework station – Having all the school supplies and materials in one place makes it easier for kids to find what they need to get their work done. It’s also helpful to have a designated study area. When they’re younger, it might be the kitchen table so you can help them through assignments. As they get older, it might be a desk in their room or even a public library.
- Use a worry pad – It’s common for older kids to get caught up in worrying about things. Give them a worry pad to write down distracting thoughts as they have them. That way they can go back to whatever it is they were doing and address the worry later.
If you need additional tips or advice, a primary care provider can help. A Linden Oaks Behavioral Health therapist can also help kids discover new strategies to cope with school stressors. To learn more, make an appointment online or call us at 630-305-50273.