Tests, grades, homework, social pressures, teachers – there are lots of things that can give a kid school stress. Some stress is healthy and motivates us to get things done, but too much can be just the opposite. Check in with your child regularly about how she or he is feeling, and watch for changes in behavior that might be a sign of undue stress. Try these strategies if you feel like your child could use some help juggling priorities or coping with school stress.
1. Talk it out.
Make sure your child knows she or he can come to you with concerns. The American Psychological Association recommends stopping whatever you are doing when your child comes to you, and listening actively, letting them finish before you respond and then repeating what you’ve heard so they know you are listening.
2. Stop over-scheduling.
If your kids have no free time most days, frequently say they’d rather stay home than participate in activities, or if you’re most often with them in the car, they might be over-scheduled, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. A better balance between activities and unstructured time might relieve stress.
3. Practice time management.
Helping your child organize schoolwork can go a long way to relieving school stress. Experts suggest that simple steps such as helping your child keep his or her backpack clean, using a planner to track homework deadlines – and extracurricular activities – and maintaining a clean workspace at home can make a big difference.
4. Focus on sleep.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says kids ages 6 to 12 need nine to 12 hours of sleep per night, and teens need eight to 10 hours. Sleep deprivation can lead to irritability and cause attention and memory problems. Dialing back bedtime might keep your child calmer and more focused.
5. Prepare for stressful situations.
If your child is facing a test, school performance or other potentially stressful situation, help by talking it through. Discuss what concrete actions your child can take to improve the situation and make a plan. Experts say a positive attitude can also help.
6. Try “teddy bear” breathing.
The American Institute of Stress recommends lying on the back with one hand to the chest and a favorite teddy bear on the tummy. As your child breathes in through the nose, the teddy bear should rise, but the chest should not. Have your child count to three, slowly breathe out and repeat.
7. Embrace imperfection.
Everyone makes mistakes. It’s how we learn. If your child is concerned with a bad grade or test score, The Child Mind Institute suggests sharing a story of your own failure, then talk through what went wrong this time and come up with a plan.
8. Keep things consistent at home.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends family routines so children know what to expect. When things happen on a predictable schedule, it is easier to make sure important tasks like homework are getting done.
9. Work it out.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America notes that exercise produces endorphins, brain chemicals that boost mood and improve sleep. Make sure your child gets regular physical activity – whether through organized sports or fun activities such as dancing, hiking or bicycling.
10. Bring in a professional.
If your child experiences irritability, crying, clinging or other negative changes in behavior or physical symptoms such as sleep issues, stomachaches or headaches on a regular basis – and you believe they are stress related – the American Psychological Association recommends seeking professional help.
By Christina Elston