COPING WITH SCHOOL STRESS
As school has begun, stress may have kicked in for your child. Between schoolwork, homework, standardized tests, bullying, and after school activities, most children are stressed out. Common signs of stress are changes in mood or behavior, headaches and stomachaches, changes in sleep and appetite. For teenagers, signs may include cutting oneself or expressions of despair or hopelessness.
Here are a few resources to help your child/teen to cope with stress:
1. Teach your child time-management skills. Encourage your child to use a planner to keep track of assignments. When an assignment is finished, your child can check it off for a feeling of accomplishment. Also teach your child to budget her time wisely by making a list of all activities (homework, after school activities, exam prep, sport activity) she does every week and help her put them on the calendar.
2. Consider cutting down on extras. As a nation, we tend to believe that the more the better. However, over-scheduling is a huge source of stress for children of all ages who are worried about keeping up with their responsibilities and activities. Instead, reevaluate the priorities and look for ways to cut back on school work and extra activities.
3. Encourage sleep, exercise, and family mealtimes. About 30 to 40% of adolescents have 6 hours or less of sleep on school nights while studies show that adequate sleep reduces level of stress. Being physically active prevents stress from building up and mealtimes are an opportunity to connect to your child/adolescent by communicating with her and supporting her emotionally.
4. Practice relaxation. Deep breathing, writing affirmations, and positive thinking are healthy habits to develop daily. Those techniques are proven ways to reduce stress and bring relief from anxiety.
5. Keep the fun in childhood and teen years. It is essential to maintain a balance between work and play. So, let your child/teen have unstructured time to relax and play the way she wants. Plan with her activities you all want to share together: hanging out at the beach, having a bike ride, watching a movie, playing a board/video game.
Stress is part of our life. However, when managed properly, children and teens do not get overwhelmed and then have the ability to develop a sense of accomplishment and pride in different areas of their life.
s GETTING READY FOR THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR
A new school year lies ahead of us. It is both exciting and anxiety provoking. It is definitely a big transition that all children experience every year. Children who start school for the first time or who go to a new school face the biggest adjustments. Even just moving up a grade requires getting used to a new teacher, changing social circle, and having more academic demands. However, with some preparation and forethought, children can get ready for the big day.
Here are a few strategies to help her:
1. Have conversations about the next school and/or grade before the first day of school. Prepare your child by telling her what she can expect, including playground, snack, reading, computers, music, and art classes. Share your own stories about what you loved at school when you were a child.
2. Get your child back on an early bedtime several days before school starts. Since most children stay up late in the summer months, they can sleep in late in the morning. However, they will not be able to keep the same schedule once school starts. So, make sure your child has enough sleep (between 9.5 and 11 hours depending on her age and individual physiology) by moving bedtime a bit earlier every night a week before school starts.
3. Involve your child in the process of getting back to school. For instance, let her choose her own school supplies either from home or from a store and let her put them in her backpack. Discuss with her a few options she can have for a healthy snack and lunch. Similarly, let her choose her clothes or give her a few options. The more your child feels in charge, the less she will be nervous/anxious for the big day.
4. The day before school starts, tell your child exactly what will happen. It will give her a comfortable mental representation of what to expect. The unknown is what makes her nervous/anxious. So, by describing her what to expect on the big day will help her relieve the potential stress.
5. When saying goodbye, your child may feel teary. Reassure her she will be fine and that you cannot wait to see her at the end of the day. Your child needs to be left with a new person she can attach to, such as a teacher or a teacher’s aide. Your child’s tears should not last long. In case they do, make sure to talk to the teacher so that you can strategize a way to help your child handle this transition.
Before school starts or even the first days of school, your child may experience some unusual meltdowns. Be sure to be present emotionally for your child and to normalize her emotions. With time and patience, your child will quickly adjust to her new routine.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.