Returning to school—or going for the first time—brings excitement and possibility for new things to come. Unfortunately, it also comes with stress. Deadlines, bake sales, homework, tests, and presentations make school one of the most stressful events in anyone’s life. Whether you are heading back to school this fall or you are sending your child off to school (even for the first time), stress is something you can’t avoid. Fortunately, there are a lot of things you and your child can do to help beat the stress before it gets the best of you.
Stress is a part of life. It is one of the best ways that our bodies and brains communicate—letting us know when we have too much going on, when we should be excited, and when we should just run! A small amount of stress is a healthy thing because it helps you stay focused, be motivated, and keep yourself safe. The problem comes when you or your child is overloaded with stress. This can lead to anxiety, panic attacks, sleeplessness, depressed mood, and even lower self-esteem. Because there are so many things that can come from an overload of stress, it is important to know how to reduce your stress to a manageable level during the school year.
While it might not seem like a revelation, keeping to a schedule is a great way to help your student manage stress. Particularly as students enter middle and high school, the amount of time that they are expected to spend on schoolwork at home will increase. Unfortunately, the increased work load often leads to students staying up until the early hours of the morning to complete assignments. A good time management plan can help reduce this stress and give your child enough time to rest—which is a great way to reduce stress.
Some time-tested methods of time management include:
- Set up a weekly schedule that shows what you need to do for the week and how much time each major task will take
- The night before you go to bed, write out a to do list for the next day
- When studying, work for 25-30 minute stretches and then take a 5-minute break. Using a timer on a smartphone is a great way to help manage this.
- Set a goal for a bedtime every day. Most children and teens need at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
A stressed out student can be something that can bring stress into the rest of the family as well. As a parent, there are a few things that you can do to relieve the stress of your student and yourself as well. Particularly for younger students, providing time where students get to play and relax away from the demands of schoolwork can help to reduce stress. Additionally, spending time as a family—playing a game, having dinner together, watching a television show, reading—provides students a family support system that can help to boost their confidence, especially when stress begins to build up. Doing these kinds of things with your student can also help to reduce your stress as it gives you and your child time to get away from the increasingly demanding curriculum.
Perhaps one of the best things you as a parent can do for your own stress is to realize that you might not be able to help your student with every kind of homework that they will have throughout their academic career. Whether it is science, math, English, or computer sciences, there will be something that you will be unable to help them with. That’s okay. To help relieve your stress and that of your student, reach out to the teacher for information on how to help, tutorial times, or referrals for tutors. Asking for help can be the first step to reducing stress for everyone.
Going back to school should be exciting. Students get to embark on a new time in their lives, make new friends, and learn something new. Parents get to help their child discover new things about the world around them. And while there will be stress, that doesn’t mean it has to be stressful.