Coping With Stress At School

We are nearing the school holidays, when tired teachers and school children get a well-deserved break from the daily rigours of education. However, as soon as the holidays begin, advertisers start their next round of marketing their products for the next school year. And as we near August and September again, social media is chock full of the usual ‘back to school’ photos – excited primary school children in their brand new school uniform and a few reluctant teens with embarrassed smiles. September heralds a new beginning every year – for children, parents and teachers. But new beginnings can be tricky – sadly, not all children love school… and some find it very stressful.

Tests and assessments bring pressures, as well as having to cope with new teaching styles and personalities and perhaps different expectations and rules. For some children, change is exciting – but for many others, it’s scary and challenging.

What can parents do to minimise school stress for their children?

Don’t make going back to school into a huge big deal if you know that your child is nervous. We sometimes try to ‘jolly’ children along and create a false sense of excitement. If it isn’t there, don’t force it! Going back to school is a normal part of life and approach it in a calm measured way.

In the same way, if you’re dealing with parental anxiety about your child starting school, be careful not to pass that anxiety on – children learn by watching the way that you behave. Be a calming influence – don’t teach them how to be anxious. If your child is experiencing anxiety, here are ways in which you can help a child with anxiety about school.

Give them the opportunity to talk … but don’t badger them to talk about their feelings if they don’t want to. Create an atmosphere where they know that you are responsive to their needs and will listen when THEY want to talk.

Look for the positives – what do they enjoy at school? Is there a way they can do more of what they enjoy? Look at after-school clubs and outside activities that cater for their interests. If they find school a tricky place to be sometimes, they need other things that they enjoy. It’s the same with adults – no one wants to feel that work is the only thing they have in life. Schoolwork is important – but balance is the key.

Talk to your child’s teachers if they are struggling – teachers can’t do anything about it if they don’t know.

Find activities that help your child to relax. Yoga and Mindfulness are getting more and more popular for teens and younger children and Hypno-relaxation is great for kids too as it really taps into their wonderful imaginations (which they often lose as they get older).

Get a healthy sense of perspective and encourage them to do the same … education is important but it’s not just about tests and results. Being a kind person, a good friend and a rounded individual are even more important than what you got in your latest Maths assessment. Make sure your child knows that…. and believes it. You need to model that mindset and behaviour because they learn from you.

Don’t make comparisons between your kids – if their older sister always gets great grades, for example, the chances are that they will feel the pressure to compete. Make it clear that you appreciate whatever it is that makes them unique – everyone has different talents and abilities – value them equally.

Enjoy any holidays from school as much as you can. Holidays should be just that – time to relax and recharge and children need that as much as adults.

Lastly, have fun as a family! No one is the perfect parent but find what works for you.