Summer is right around the corner, but many kids are experiencing peak stress levels in school. To help manage school-related anxiety, here are some ways parents or caregivers can provide positive support for their child or teen.
Routine is helpful for everyone but especially children. Kids thrive when they know what to expect. Helping your child establish and stick to a routine that works for them and your family will play a huge role in keeping school stress in check. Starting the day off strong with a consistent morning routine can help set your child up for a successful day at school. And while after-school hours can often be chaotic for many families, an afternoon/evening routine with designated times for activities, homework, dinner, bedtime, etc. will help kids who are frequently overwhelmed when they get home from school.
Visuals are also a great way for your child to check and see what the plan of the day or week is. Help your child organize their own planner or keep a calendar with their schedule on it are helpful examples. While routine and regular schedules will make an impact on a child’s stress level, it is crucial to avoid over-scheduling. People of all ages require downtime. It’s important to set aside time for relaxation and play to provide a positive outlet for your child’s stressed-out brain.
How your child takes care of their physical health plays a role in the way their body and brain processes stress.Getting enough sleep is especially important for a developing brain. It plays a major part in physical and emotional health. Not getting enough sleep can increase the effects of stress. It’s recommended children between the ages of 6 and 13 get at least 10-12 hours of sleep per night. Teenagers need at least 8-10 hours of sleep each night.
A balanced diet will also play a role in how the brain processes stress. Healthy fats and protein, as well as fruits and vegetables, are necessary in supporting your child’s growing body and brain.
In addition to diet and sleep, movement is an excellent outlet for managing stress. Exercise has been shown to increase levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain. This helps the brain regulate its response to stress.
For many children, the majority of their school day is spent sitting at a desk. This leaves little opportunity to get up and move around. So whether it’s participating in after-school team sports or simply taking a walk, being active can help offset the effects of school stress.
No matter the age of your child, social emotional connection with family and friends is always important. A child’s brain is not built to be entirely school focused. Making sure your child is regularly spending time with family/friends during the week is helpful in balancing stress.
Planning fun family activities (like movie nights or going out to eat) can give your child something positive to look forward to. Family walks are another great option for connection and movement. And for those activities that don’t involve the family, schedule a playdate for your child or allow your teenager to hang out with peers. These social interactions are a crucial part of their development and stress management.
Building connections with your child also means being involved in their homework and shows your interest in their schooling. Getting to know your child’s strengths can help them set achievable goals. And positively reinforce hardwork and effort over perfection.
Sometimes it may be necessary to seek out extra support. Keep an eye out for signs that your child’s school related stress is becoming something more intense. These signs may include intense worry over perfectionism at school, dwelling on mistakes, becoming too overwhelmed to focus, or giving up easily. Some children might complain about trouble sleeping or stomach aches/headaches before or during school.
Abby Sachs is a post-graduate fellow at Child and Family Solutions Center.
If you feel like you aren’t sure how to best support your child, teen or young adult. Child and Family Solutions Center is here to help. Please call us at 248-851-5437 to get started with supportive services.