One of the most common questions I get asked is “how do I help my child with school stress?”. In this post, we will cover, the common causes of stress in school-aged children, how to recognise when it is a problem and some strategies for trying to help.
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What is School Stress?
This blog is well timed as April is Stress awareness month. However, sadly it is not just in April when children are feeling the stress of life. Even before the added pressure of the pandemic, school-aged children were feeling under pressure.
What exactly is stress? First, it is important to remember that stress is normal. The stress response is a release of different hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. They cause us to be prepared to either fight or run away. Our hearts pound, breathing gets faster and we get a boost of energy. It is a body response that allows us to survive by responding quickly to dangerous situations. For example, reacting quickly to a car nearly hitting us involves the stress response and it allows us to get out of the way quickly.
The problem comes when our stress response gets triggered in the wrong situations or if we are under stress for long periods of time.
The side effects can then be:
- Weight gain or loss
- Sleep problems (Link to sleep post)
To make matters worse, these side effects can then lead to more stress and the cycle increases.
10 Common Causes of School Stress
1. Upcoming tests and exams – many students worry about getting a good grade with pressure put on them from teachers and parents.
2. Too much homework – When your child is overwhelmed or frustrated by homework, it makes it harder for him or her to complete assignments. This can cause a stressful cycle where homework piles up and your child doesn’t have the time or energy to complete it all—leading to even more stress.
3. Lack of organisation – students with poor organisational skills tend to experience more stress because they aren’t properly prepared with the tools needed for learning. They then feel like they are falling behind and the cycle continues.
4. Busy lives. Students can have very busy schedules with very little time to relax. Homework, extra-curricular clubs, social activities and family expectations can all increase business.
5. Poor sleep schedule. Studies have shown that students who don’t get the required 8-10 hours of sleep each night are more likely to feel stressed than students who do.
6. School lessons – for some students, the experience of school lessons can be stressful. The fear of getting called on in class, not feeling like they are understanding the work, feeling behind in lessons can all add to the stress.
7. Lack of support – even if it is only a perceived lack of support, this can add a lot of stress to students.
8. Transition to a new school or class – we know that the transition points in education like moving from primary to secondary school, or starting a new school can be big sources of stress for children.
9. Classes that are too difficult – As classes get harder, it’s important to address challenges early so your child can catch up before he or she falls too far behind.
10. Changes to routine – A routine including dedicated homework time and a consistent sleep schedule helps guide students through their day. When changes to the usual routine start to happen, your child may find it more difficult to manage his or her time, leading to more stress.
What can help with school stress?
Identifying the sources of stress is one thing, but how do you actually help your child?
The most important thing is to talk to them, you could try introducing some relaxation ideas together.
You may also like to read:
- Dyscalculia – what society and teachers need to know
- Autism Awareness – What you should know
- Sleep and learning – sleep could be your best study tool.