Let’s be honest, school can be stressful. For many students there is a pivotal moment when the work goes from easy to challenging. When that shift occurs, most children do not have the skills to manage the increase in their stress level. As parents and caregivers, you can help your child find healthy ways to manage stress.
1. Teach Time Management Skills:
Children need to learn how to budget their time wisely while also building organizational skills. This combo will help decrease stress levels around assigned work. Don’t assume they know how to keep up with papers, assignments, or how to get/stay organized. Instead show them how to utilize their planners/calendars and binders to increase organization. Help them recognize what time they have available for studies while also managing additional commitments.
2. Encourage Good Sleep and Regular Exercise:
Adequate sleep and exercise can be very powerful weapons to fight off stress and anxiety. Many children are not getting enough sleep leaving them not at their best for school work. According to the National Sleep Foundation preschool age children (3-5 years old) should get about 10-13 hours of sleep per night. School age children (6-13) are in need of 9-11 hours of sleep per night. Teenagers (age 14-17) should be getting 8-10 hours of sleep. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. In addition to good sleep, exercise is also important as it pumps up your endorphins to fight off stress. Regular exercise can then lead to improved sleep. Win, win!
3. Spend Time With Family:
Another crucial component for managing stress is family time and connection. Incorporating a minimum of 20 minutes 4-5 days per week of connection and conversation with your child has tremendous benefits in managing stress. With busy schedules this may be more of a challenge than you initially expect. Plan ahead and add family time to your routine.
4. Allow Daily Unstructured Time:
Finding time to unwind after a long day at work is important for most adults, so wouldn’t it be just as important for children. If they don’t find a way to let it go and have fun, then the stress will carry over with them the next day. That stress will then decrease their ability to perform assignments or learn new information. Providing time for unstructured activities such as playing on the playground, choosing board games, riding bikes, etc allows your child to let go of the days stress so they can be prepared to work hard tomorrow. Although stress can lead to anxiety, anxiety and stress are different. Stress is feeling overwhelmed with life’s pressure and goes away after the stressful situation passes. Anxiety is an intense feeling of worry or nervousness that continues after the situation has passed. Below are some symptoms that may be associated with anxiety. Keep in mind these symptoms could be a result of many different factors and may not always be the result of anxiety. If you are concerned about your child, it is best to have them evaluated by a mental health professional.
● Difficulty in class, makes careless mistakes, distraction, inattentive, restless, difficulty focusing/planning
● Hyperactivity, fidgeting, squirming, talking or moving too much, extra movement when doing simple tasks.
● Not able to complete school work, poor time management or procrastination.
● Difficulty organizing tasks and activities and managing sequential tasks, disorganized work.
● A sensitivity to social cues such as being aware of what others are thinking and feeling,
● Racy heart, clamminess, tense muscles, tummy aches, headaches, nausea, or dizziness.
● Impulsive behavior that generally happens in isolated bursts or when they are anxious..
● Child may speak about feeling worried, even if they are not able to share what they are worried about. Keep in mind, some amount of anxiety is healthy and normal. It is what motivates us to stay alive, be prepared for presentations, to take care of our responsibilities, etc. Should you be have questions or concerns regarding your child’s anxiety or stress level, reach out and obtain support for your child.
Aimee Campbell MA, LPC-S