Coping with School Stress
Kids share the big stuff when you chat about the small stuffBy Brandpoint
School days are exciting, fun times for your children, but they can be stressful as well. It can be difficult for parents to know how to help their children, should they exhibit signs of school stress. Here are recommendations from Dr. Cheryl S. Al-Mateen, medical director of the Virginia Treatment Center for Children, to help parents support their kids and uncover potential problems.
1Check in about school and activities.
Give your child your undivided attention for 5 to 10 minutes every day to talk about their friends, teachers and classes. Open yourself to hearing the good and bad, and ask what they find difficult — like feeling too nervous to talk or being teased for talking too much. These conversations help you identify problems as they arise, teach your child problem-solving skills and reinforce how deeply you care about their well-being.
2Strengthen your lines of communication.
Your child may be more open about school if you have frequent conversations about other things as well. Talk to them about the little stuff, and they’ll be more apt to tell you about the big stuff. Listen without judging, and be ready to engage them in an activity if that makes them more comfortable. Braiding your child’s hair, shooting a few baskets in the driveway or working a puzzle can lead to great conversations.
3Work with your school.
If your child is showing signs of stress that concern you, don’t be afraid to reach out to their teachers or principal. Your child’s teacher may be able to shed light on what’s causing the stress and, if nothing else, can help watch out for your child during the school day.
4Establish a routine at home.
Children thrive in stable, consistent environments. Creating a predictable schedule is helpful, if you can, but sometimes that’s just not possible. Make a big family calendar and keep it where everyone can access it. This empowers children to know what’s coming up.
How to know if your child needs help
Look for warning signs. For example, young children may complain about stomachaches and headaches that have no physical explanation. When depressed, a child may say that they’re angry, rather than sad, so listen for both—especially when their eating or sleeping patterns also change dramatically. These may be signs of a larger problem.
Other ways to stress less