If you are like most families with young students at home you may have noticed an increase in the stress level of your student. School stress is a common problem that increases this time of year as the pressures of annual assessments and yearlong goals are magnified by winter’s curse of nasty weather. Students, no matter what age, experience stress related to school.
Stress may manifest itself in physical symptoms such as headaches, sleep issues, changes in eating habits, or stomach pain. Stress in students may also be seen in changes in behavior or emotions such as anxiety, anger and aggression, clinging to adults, crying, and reluctance to participate in school and/or family events. If stress is not dealt with in a healthy way, it may lead to more severe issues including depression.
Parents and other adults can help students learn to manage stress in a healthy way. Here are some suggestions that may help your students reduce stress:
Encourage physical activity and regular exercise as well as healthy sleeping habits. Proper sleep and scheduled physical activity are two ways to help attack stress before it begins.
Stay organized. Make sure school work and responsibilities outside of school are balanced. Encourage students to use the tools that help them stay on track for completing homework, projects, and tasks.
Listen without being critical. Parents place a great deal of pressure on students to succeed. This pressure, although motivational and with good intent, can lead to high levels of school related stress. It is important to be aware of what your student is capable of accomplishing in and out of school. If they fall short, allow them the forum to talk about mistakes and reflect on those mistakes in a positive manner. Mistakes and missteps are going to happen – they are a part of life. How we help students deal with those missteps affects their ability to manage those stressors as they continue to occur through their school career.
Help your student recognize what works for them in managing stress. Have an open conversation about what triggers stress for them, how to recognize stress in themselves, and how to deal with those stressors.
Encourage your student to find something they enjoy that allows them to relax. They may try listening to music, taking a walk, closing their eyes for a few minutes, do deep breathing exercises, putting down electronics for twenty minutes, or finding a relaxing hobby as a way to de-stress.
Build time into your schedule as a family to relax. Families today lead very active lives. Downtime is something that needs to be part of the daily schedule. By doing this, you are teaching your student how to clear their mind and reset himself or herself in order to take on the next tasks.
Manage your own stress. Stress builds on stress and often spreads like an infection throughout a household. Students sense adult stress and often take that on as their own. Adults need to create a situation in which we model healthy reactions to stress for our students.
Stay positive. If you remain positive about school, your positive attitude will transfer to your student.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion.