By Michael Klinkner, Evolve Counseling AZ
As students get back to the grind of school, you may notice your kids are more stressed than they were over the summer. It’s a fact: school can be stressful for a lot of students. Sometimes, way too stressful.
However, stress isn’t always a bad thing. Low to medium amounts of stress can be beneficial for today’s students. It builds kids’ determination, teaches them skills to work under pressure and encourages a good work ethic. But there are times when students are under too much stress, which can result in feeling overwhelmed, anxious and depressed.
High levels of stress impact a student’s ability to achieve success in the classroom and at home. If the student is under too much stress for a long period of time, they can show signs of physical and mental health issues. A stressed-out student’s confidence can get shaken, leading to lower grades and less interest in school activities.
Here are 5 steps to help your child cope with school-related stress:
- Look for signs of school-related stress. Some of the most common signs include headaches, stomach aches and shakiness. They may put off assignments and refuse to go to school. Students may also have changes in their appetite and sleep patterns.
- Validate their feelings. You may not think the cause of your child’s stress is a big deal. You may think they are over-reacting – and they might be – however, whether you agree or not, your kid is actually feeling distress. Validate your child by expressing that you understand they are feeling overwhelmed and acknowledge things seem hard right now. It will help your child feel seen and heard and possibly open a line of communication to help find a solution to the issue at hand.
- Help kids identify the source of their stress. Sometimes a child will know exactly what’s stressing them out. But lots of times, they’re not sure. To help uncover the issue, ask open-ended questions like, “When did the stress first start?” “Is there something coming up at school that you are worried about?” “Is there anything going on with your friends that is stressing you?” Determining where the stress is stemming from will help you address the issue head on.
- Develop a plan together to deal with the problem. Once you know the exact issue or issues that are stressing your child, help them develop a plan of attack. Don’t dictate to them what to do, even if you have a really great solution. Instead, guide your child as they develop a plan that works for them. You can give some feedback about why something may or may not work, but it’s really important that your child feels like they came up with the solution on their own. This allows your child to gain independence and helps reassure them they can handle similar situations in the future. If your child can’t come up with any solutions, give them two or three ways you might solve the problem if you were in their shoes. This can help prompt other solutions.
- Set realistic expectations. Once a strategy is determined for dealing with stress, help your child set realistic goals for an outcome. Kids will sometimes expect too much, or too little, when handling stress-related issues. They won’t be able to turn a “D” in math into an “A” overnight. Turning in several missing homework assignments, though, can have a huge impact on that grade. Help your child see the cause-and-effect impact and what the likely outcomes are for their solution.
As parents, we want to protect our children from stress but, sadly, that is unrealistic. As a parent, our job is to help our kids develop strategies that will benefit them throughout their lives and give them the best tools to productively cope with stress when it inevitably comes around.
Michael Klinkner is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Neurolinguistic Programming. He is also certified in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Klinkner provides individual, group and family therapy to children, adolescents and adults and is part of Evolve Counseling and Behavioral Health Services in Central Phoenix and Gilbert, Ariz. Klinkner focuses on treating a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, trauma and ADHD. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, visit https://www.evolvecounselingaz.com/ or email info@evolvecounselingAZ.com